Cardinal Stritch University’s African American Leadership Program is billed as a program that doesn’t just strengthen leaders, but transforms them.
If anyone can attest to that it is Schinika Fitch. Before she started with the program in 2014, her career revolved around PR and communications, including jobs as a television news producer and years spent in corporate communications.
Fitch was looking to have a more direct impact on the lives of young women, though, and credits the nine-month program with giving her the confidence needed to make that change.
“You really get to the core of who you are and what you want to do with your life,” said Fitch, who now conducts youth outreach with Sojourner Family Peace Center. “It gave me the encouragement I needed to take that leap of faith that I could do something new and different.”
Over the past six years, 120 area leaders like Fitch have benefited from the program, which has been described as taking people on a “journey of your own leadership potential.” The way it does so is first by offering one-on-one executive coaching and 360-degree evaluations to identify an individual’s mission and passion and how they bring that to their workplace, said program founder Jeanette Mitchell, Ed.D.
The program offers daylong learning sessions that touch upon topics like how to form a personal mission statement and build a personal brand. Evening networking sessions give participants an opportunity to connect with and learn from prominent African American community leaders including Howard Fuller, a civil rights activist and education reformer, and Thelma Sias, a We Energies executive.
Participants represent all sectors and reflect a diversity of ages and experiences. Established city leaders and young Milwaukee transplants are often in the same class.
The new networks formed and collaborations that occur are valuable to participants and their employers. But Mitchell believes Milwaukee will reap the benefits as well because a whole new generation of leaders are developed who can work together to lift up the community.
The Greater Milwaukee Foundation and its donors have supported the program from its beginning in 2008 and over the years have awarded grants to research its impact on participants and expand the classes to include a more diverse cross-section of individuals.