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CLD celebrates $34 million campaign with ribbon cutting

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The Center for Leadership Development (CLD), a beacon of hope and empowerment for Indianapolis’ minority youth since 1977, celebrated a significant milestone with a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the completion of its $34 million RISE drive. This movement funded a major expansion to its facility and established an endowment to ensure the organization’s long-term sustainability.

The ceremony kicked off at the CLD headquarters, located at 2425 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St., Dec. 8.

The event drew droves of residents and notable figures, including U.S. Congressman Andre Carson, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, City-County Council President Vop Osili and prominent leaders from the business and health care sectors.

The ceremony featured inspiring addresses from CLD President Dennis Bland, Pacers Sports & Entertainment (PS&E) Vice Chairman Jim Morris, IU Health President & CEO Dennis Murphy and Citizens Energy Group President & CEO Jeffrey Harrison.

“We are here for more than the unveiling of a building; we are here for the unveiling of light: the light of character development, the light of educational excellence, the light of leadership effectiveness, the light of community service and the light of achievement,” Bland said.

Bland expressed people who cultivate values such as character development, academic excellence, leadership and achievement reap “brilliance.”

Hogsett echoed Bland’s sentiments, highlighting the critical role CLD plays in fostering strong, resilient communities.

Mayor of Indianapolis Joe Hogsett during the ribbon-cutting at the Center for Leadership Development on December 8, 2023. (Photo/Noral Parham III)

“When our young people have the skills and mindset they need to lead, when they see the value in education, work, service, in themselves, that’s a win for all of us,” Hogsett said. “Today’s ribbon cutting is a larger effort to transform Indianapolis into a city where prosperity reaches every neighbor, every zip code, every doorstep, every home and every child. That is the challenge, and it is the opportunity of our era.”

RELATED: CLD students get full-ride scholarships

The new expansion nearly doubles the size of the CLD facility, providing much-needed space for its growing programs and initiatives. These programs equip young people with essential life skills, academic guidance and leadership training, preparing them for college, careers and active citizenship.

Those speaking also celebrated the work and life of Jerry Semler.

“What is this alchemy through which CLD achieves these transformations? It is not some mysterious formula or secret code,” Osili said. “The Center for Leadership Development takes youth to which the world has very often said, ‘You can’t achieve this, you can’t be that and you can’t go there.’ CLD says to that ‘You can.'”

The new facility ensures that CLD’s vital work will continue to impact future generations, including eighth grader Asha Smitherman.

CLD member and eighth grader Asha Smitherman during the ribbon-cutting at the Center for Leadership Development on December 8, 2023. (Photo/Noral Parham III)

“My CLD journey began in the fifth grade with a program ‘Junior Self Discovery,'” Smitherman said. “These programs helped me find ways to make a difference in my community through service. My teachers helped me become more confident with using my voice and my fellow sisters in my cohort helped me become more comfortable making new friends. I credit CLD for helping me grow and blossom into the amazing young woman I am meant to be.”

As the ribbon fell with one collective snip, signifying the official opening of the expanded facility, many rushed in out of the frigid air and into the new empowering and uplifting facility. Community members, parents, stakeholders and students alike expressed their gratitude for CLD’s unwavering commitment to their future.

RELATED: Center for Leadership Development 16th annual College Prep Conference

“Today, we enter the next era of CLD,” Carson said. “We know that progress is not created overnight; it is built. Change doesn’t come from inaction; it comes from advocacy. Too often, whether it is on the news or in entertainment, we focus too much on the hardships that our communities face, but, really, we have so much to celebrate, like today. More than 50,000 students and families have already been impacted by this wonderful movement with many more to come.”

Congressman Andre Carson during the ribbon-cutting at the Center for Leadership Development on December 8, 2023. (Photo/Noral Parham III)

The Center for Leadership Development’s RISE campaign serves as a powerful example of what can be achieved through collaboration and community support. Moreover, with its expanded facilities and secured future, CLD is poised to continue empowering Indianapolis youth and shaping a brighter tomorrow for all.

“We want to return value by cultivating brilliance in hundreds and thousands of young people,” Bland said.


Contact multimedia staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846 or via email at noralp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @3Noral. For more news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.

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