Charlotte Civic Leadership Academy


Image from Civic Leadership Academy Session
CLA participant raising hands
Civic Leadership Academy Session
Civic Leadership Academy Session

The City of Charlotte's Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) is a free 10-course program designed for Charlotte residents who are ready to take the next step in being community leaders and improving the quality of life in all of Charlotte's neighborhoods.

The CLA provides an overview of city government and allows participants to grow in their leadership, connect with city staff, decision makers and other Charlotte leaders, and make a difference in their communities. 

Participation is determined through a competitive application process. 



  • A City of Charlotte resident
  • Commitment to continued community leadership
  • Ability to attend at least 8 out of 10 sessions

Benefits of Participation

  • Receive a personalized leadership assessment and leadership development training
  • Enhance your understanding of Charlotte's history, organizational vision and mission, and strategies for decision making
  • Develop relationships with other community leaders and leaders in local government
  • Get a behind-the-scenes look at how the City of Charlotte works and gain specialized knowledge about the priorities, programs and key initiatives/investments of the City of Charlotte. 


Leaders with vision and clarity of purpose will push our community forward. Our leadership development program will equip you with self and social awareness and the ability to collaborate and exercise influence to be a better advocate for your family, neighborhood, and our greater Charlotte Community.

Equity & Opportunity

With Charlotte and Mecklenburg County's last ranking in social mobility, our community needs a renewed focus on how we all can create an equitable community and expand opportunities for all residents. The CLA will give you tools to understand our collective history and work to achieve more positive outcomes for all in the future.

Accessible Government

The City's government structure can feel complicated, and you may need to learn how to access decision-making. The CLA will give you access to tools and resources that help city leaders determine priorities and make decisions that impact residents' lives. In our interactive workshops, you will also be able to build relationships with city staff.



 Session Dates – Fall 2024


Sept. 10

6 – 8 pm (Orientation)


Sept. 17

6 – 8:30 pm


Sept. 24

6 – 8:30 pm


Oct. 1

6 – 8:30 pm


Oct. 3

6 – 8:30 pm


Oct. 8

6 – 8:30 pm


Oct. 15

6 – 8:30 pm


Oct. 19

9:30 am – 1 pm


Oct. 23

6 – 9:00 pm


Oct. 29

6 – 8:30 pm


Nov. 2

9:30 am – 1 pm


Nov. 14

6 – 8:30 pm (Graduation)


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Civic Leadership Academy (CLA)?

The CLA is a free course in the City of Charlotte government and civic leadership. Participants can grow in their leadership style, connect with city staff, decision-makers and other Charlotte leaders, and gain valuable tools to make a difference in their communities.

Who can participate?

Participation is open to residents of Charlotte, NC. Currently, we are not accepting applications from anyone outside the City's geographical boundaries (in extra-territorial jurisdictions, surrounding towns, etc.).

Do I have to be an established leader to participate in the CLA?

Young people (16 and older), established neighborhood leaders, residents with no leadership experience, homeowners, renters, business owners, non-profit workers, new arrivals, native Charlotteans, and everyone in between are encouraged to apply. If you care about Charlotte and want to work with the city to improve your quality of life, we encourage you to apply for the CLA.

How and why was CLA created?

The CLA was created to equip residents with the tools and information necessary to be strong, community- focused civic leaders. The CLA focuses on making the city government more accessible and transparent and engaging residents as partners in grappling with the challenges we face as a community. The program was created with input from grassroots community leaders and city staff to reflect the needs and concerns of the community. Because we are deeply committed to being responsive in providing information and tools that the community needs, each CLA series may vary slightly to reflect changing issues and concerns in our community.

How will participants be selected?

Up to 42 applicants will be selected for each CLA series (six from each City Council district area). Selection is based largely on the application content, with a focus on selecting applicants who reflect the rich diversity of our community and who demonstrate a willingness to engage as leaders in Charlotte. Selection is competitive, as the number of applications received typically far exceeds the number of slots available. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to be as thoughtful, earnest, innovative, and engaging as possible in their application. Some guidance on “What makes a strong application?” is included in these Frequently Asked Questions. 

Should I send additional information with my application?

Extra information, such as a resume, is unnecessary to include with the application and will not be considered in the application process.

What is the cost of participation?

The program is free. Meals and materials are included. Because the CLA represents a significant investment in each participant, we ask that potential participants commit to attending the sessions and consider the class dates and time commitment before applying. 

Why should I participate?

The ideal CLA applicant applies because they love Charlotte and want to participate in problem-solving to move our community forward. Past participants in the CLA have been residents who wished to become community and/or neighborhood leaders, existing leaders who wanted to sharpen their skills, non-profit workers who wanted to better educate their constituents on how to work with government, and residents who desire to understand what the city does. Many CLA applicants are interested in applying for boards, commissions, and public service.

Participants of the CLA will:

  • Receive a personalized leadership assessment
  • Learn how to utilize their leadership style to impact their community efficiently and positively
  • Enhance their understanding of Charlotte's history and decision making
  • Develop relationships with other community leaders and leaders in local government
  • Learn how to articulate challenges and advocate for resources for their communities
  • Get a look at how the City of Charlotte works and develop specialized knowledge about the departments and programs of the City of Charlotte
  • Commit to using their leadership skills in the broader community to improve the quality of life for all Charlotteans.

Program graduates are strongly encouraged to apply to serve on City/County boards and commissions. The official boards and commissions applications include a designation for CLA graduates. CLA graduates will also receive a certificate of completion the from Housing & Neighborhood Services Department and an exclusive CLA lapel pin.

When and where are sessions held?

Sessions are on weeknights and occasional Saturdays, typically with a mix of in-person and virtual formats. Most in-person sessions will be at City-owned facilities. Selected applicants will receive an official schedule detailing each session and location with their acceptance packet.

What information will the program cover?

The CLA covers strategic priorities, key programs, initiatives and investments of the City of Charlotte, and some Charlotte history.  Participants will walk away with a high-level understanding of the city,  specialized knowledge about the work of various  departments, and a better understanding of leadership concepts like integrity,  equity, and collaboration and influence.

How often is the CLA offered?

The CLA holds two series of classes annually- in the spring (March to May) and the fall (September to November).

What are the attendance requirements?

Participants may miss up to two sessions out of 10 (not including graduation). Each session contains vital information, and participants are highly encouraged to attend each one. There is no virtual option for the in-person classes.

What happens if I am not selected?

With so many applications received, only some of the applicants can be selected. We will keep your information on file and let you know if a participant in your council district drops out and leaves a vacancy you can fill prior to the start of the series. We also encourage applicants to apply again for the next series. We will give you the first notice when applications open.

We encourage applicants to attend other training opportunities the City of Charlotte offers.

Who should I contact for more information?

Please get in touch with Cynthia Woods at or 704-336-2646.

What happens after the program?

Graduates of the CLA can indicate their status on applications for boards and commissions. The City of Charlotte will formally convene CLA graduates in voluntary, bi-annual meetings to give updates about programs and projects of the city and help the city problem solve, where applicable. Graduates are encouraged to sign up to be included on the Neighborhood Organization Contact list. How graduates engage in individual community leadership is up to them. However, community involvement and leadership are conditions for participating in the program.

What makes a strong application?

Applicants are encouraged to be as thoughtful, earnest, innovative, and engaging as possible in their applications. A Selection Committee reviews applications; they are scored based on the following categories: Application Completeness, Engagement, Perspective & Innovation, Community Concern, and Demonstrated Potential for Leadership.

While we can’t guarantee selection, we offer the following tips for completing the application:

  • Take your time – don't rush through the application.
  • Read full program details in advance – purpose, benefits, content, why participate, etc.
  • Review the entire application before you begin. Follow the instructions, answer questions thoroughly.
  • Think through each question, giving thoughtful consideration, and provide your sincere, distinct response.
  • Before submitting, check to ensure your responses are clear and they convey your intended meaning.