Just over a year ago, I received an email from HCLA President Alaina Shonkwiler asking to meet for lunch. While I consider Alaina a friend and an incredible dancer (she was a contestant the first year of Meals on Wheels of Hamilton County Dancing With Our Stars), I was most curious as to why she wanted to have lunch. I was blown away with her request for me to consider serving as dean for the HCLA Class of 2022. Of course, I said yes after being absolutely sure she meant to ask me and not someone else. I was both stunned and incredibly humbled by the invitation. In hindsight, other than attending the Academy myself (Class of 1994), this was one of the most fascinating learning experiences in my life.

What a journey it was with such an awe-inspiring group of individuals. Where to begin…

The cohort traveled the county convening at impressive locations, discovering a handful of hidden gems along the way. From the Westfield Playhouse to the Hamilton County Jail, every location was relevant to our learning experience and enriched the overall experience. The HCLA staff and Board are to be commended not only for the comprehensive curriculum but for also securing some of the most preeminent speakers in their respective fields for every session. The level of content delivered, the insight, and expertise provided created a rich learning environment generating thought-provoking questions from the cohort. There was always copious amounts of information and rich discussions, but never enough time to cram it all in one day’s time. The class got weary of hearing, “I hate to interrupt such a wonderful conversation, but we are out of time.” The big take-away for me was discovering Robert’s Settlement and the impact it has had on our community’s history and people. It was a bit embarrassing to admit that I have lived and worked in Hamilton County for 37 years and knew nothing about this treasure.

My experience would not have been nearly what it was without the people. This class consisted of an impressive group of individuals who rose to the occasion each day. They continually challenged our speakers, deep diving for more information and direction as to how to become more involved in their community. Some were always ready to ask an interesting question while others were always thinking and digesting the material (you know who you are). These people are what made the program. Watch out for these folks as they have great plans and will continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

If you are lucky enough to be asked to be an HCLA dean, do not hesitate to say yes. I promise you will not regret it. My thanks to Diana, Carol S., Carol P., and the Board of Directors for a spectacular experience that I will never forget!

CONGRATULATIONS to The HCLA Class of 2022! It was an honor to serve as your dean. I already miss the class, Diana, the Carols, the experiences, the learning, and, most importantly, all the fun!