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Our Story

In 1989, a group of Georgia-based executives identified a problem in need of a solution.

They observed a growing and critical need to prepare their employees for leadership and promote collaboration across class and racial barriers. To address this, they founded 21st Century Leaders, aiming to build the next generation of leaders by providing young people with training, guidance, and encouragement to enter college and the workforce with highly developed leadership skills.

For 35 years, we've been the premier youth leadership development organization in Georgia and 'best kept secret' in the state that students and companies have turned to.

1989
Incorporated as “The Georgia Business Forum” in 1989, before launching our first one-week summer leadership institute, The Summer Business Academy, in 1991 at Oglethorpe University with 31 students from 8 high schools.
1989
2001
Launched our first school and community based clubs, 21CLubs, including at Midtown High School which still exists today!
2001
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2016
Launched our gamified online learning platform, Leadership Connect, meeting students where they are and eliminating barriers.
2016
2018
Our Founding Executive Director, Bob Watson, retires after 29 years of service.
2018
2023
Launched our Summer Paid Internship & Scholarship program for graduating seniors.
2023
2024
Celebrating 35 years of service to Georgia's youth!
2024

2CL Insights

Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Jyoti

For our 35th anniversary, we’ll be sharing the stories of 35 alumni showcasing the leaders they are today and how...

Group photo of the 2024 Georgia Youth Leadership Award winners and their coaches, taken Feb. 10, 2024 at their Meet & Greet luncheon in at Emory's Goizueta Business School.

21CL Announces 2024 Georgia

21 high school students will be recognized with 21st Century Leaders' Georgia Youth Leadership Award and the Be the Inspiration...

Alumni Spotlight: Ben Bryant

For our 35th anniversary, we’ll be sharing the stories of 35 alumni showcasing the leaders they are today and how...