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The African American Leadership Academy is designed to develop the next generation of leaders for our community and beyond.  Designed to be more than a collection of in-service programming, the Leadership Academy takes the unique perspective of the Black community (from the African diaspora) and addresses leadership from a variety of perspectives including politics, education, the media, criminal justice and the law, and both non-profit and for profit business. 


This training will help support community transformation in Greater Des Moines, Iowa through mentoring and active community building while developing and encouraging emerging black leaders in their commitment to improving the community. We will explore the issues facing the community through the One Economy initiative that focuses on addressing racial disparities and inequities for the Black population in the areas of Employment, Education, Financial Inclusion, Health, and Housing.

Benefit of AALA

While there are many opportunities available to emerging leaders, the African American Leadership Academy seeks to fill a critical gap by addressing not only the professional skill necessary to achieve success, but the culturally specific needs of African Americans.


AALA alumni state that the collaboration, networking, teamwork, and friendships formed have provided them a pool of like-minded leaders. Alumni connect with their own graduation class and alumni from other years. The alumni continue to connect and help one another on work within the community and professionally.


The African American Leadership Academy will be held March through October one evening a month with additional sessions for small group work.  The Academy will incorporate a half-day leadership workshop, small group work, panel presentations, keynote speakers, and roundtable discussions, etc. Participants will begin and finish the program as a team and develop long lasting professional relationships with other leaders in the community. The African American Leadership Academy will explore leadership through a variety of lenses including but not limited to:

  • Political Landscape (both local and state level) including examining public policy and the impact of public policy on the African American community and talking with elected officials

  • K-12 Education including the role of public education in preparing AA students for their lives, getting more AA in the pipeline for administrators and employment, and developing African American Leadership.

  • Post-Secondary education

  • Non-Profit Community by understanding the non-profit sector/intersection of for-profit and non-profit, their independent function, and their influence/impact in the African American community

  • For-Profit Business

  • Historical Landscape including a historical perspective of African Americans in Des Moines—“The Firsts,” past participants-success stories

  • Media perspective of African Americans

  • Criminal Justice including the Police, Attorneys, Judges, the juvenile justice system

  • Health Care

  • Faith Community–Role of church in AA community


The Des Moines, Iowa African American Leadership Academy is supported by The Directors Council.  The AALA is part of a regional network that was started by the Northwest Area Foundation. 

Applications for 2024 are now open!
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