Good Work: Building a Community Leadership Pipeline

Community, Good Work, Leadership, Mission-Driven Work / by

Leadership Denver was a life changing experience for me as a young corporate executive concerned primarily with my next promotion.  It introduced me to my community and a cohort of young leaders passionate about making a difference. It helped make clear a mission for service that has shaped my life since participating.  It did the same for others including an attorney named Bill Ritter who went on to become governor of Colorado.

When I got to Federal Way 18 years ago, I found a young civic infrastructure without the benefit of a leadership pipeline.  One of the most rewarding things about my service as superintendent was to work arm in arm with extraordinary community leaders at city hall, the fire department, Boys & Girls Club, companies like Weyerhaeuser and the chamber of commerce.

We decided 14 years ago to prepare the next generation of leaders and launched Advancing Leadership.  Gail Pierson, a board member that hired me, was the founding director.  Teri Hickel took over after a year and the program continues to grow in size and quality.

Advancing Leadership brings together emerging leaders “for in-depth examination of key community components, intensive leadership training and a chance to work with over 100 local change agents.”  Participants develop their own leadership skills while they explore their city.  Every month they dive into another facet of the community: housing, health, education, environment, or commerce.  Most days include an eye opening field trips.

AL was one of the first community leadership development programs to add a youth program.  Open to motivated high school sophomores and juniors that show evidence of leadership potential and interest in serving the community. Students participate in a two day retreat and monthly sessions during the school year that are similar to the adult program. For many it’s a life changing experience

My daughter Caroline (who runs Getting Smart) is participating in Advancing Leadership this year.  She’ll join about 600 alumni who are making Federal Way a better place to live, learn, work, and play.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is founder and CEO of Getting Smart. He is also a partner in Learn Capital and a director of iNACOL, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners, Strive for College, and Bloomboard.

2 Comments

Amye Bronson-Doherty /

Tom, thanks for being part of the visionary group that launched AL. It has been a life-changing opportunity for so many adults and youth, including me (class of 2006). It gave me the tools and inspiration to run for and serve on the FW school board, among other things.

You did great work as superintendent, and you continue to inspire with Getting Smart.

Susan Finn /

I second Amye’s comment, thanks for being part of getting AL off the ground. I am also a 2006 alumni along with Amye. Even though I am no longer in the Federal Way area, the program taught me what I needed to continue to be a community leader and I am happy to gave me the courage to join the board of directors for the Valley Teen Center in Twisp, WA.
Again, thanks to you and all the others that have made AL what it is today!