Alumni Spotlight: Brandi Harrison

For our 35th anniversary, we’ll be sharing the stories of 35 alumni, showcasing the leaders they are today and how 21st Century Leaders inspired and impacted their journey. Alumni will represent the 3.5 decades since our founding in 1989 – the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Take a read and be inspired!

35th Anniversary Alumni Spotlight


1990’s Decade
: Brandi Harrison
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 1997
High School: H.V Jenkins High School
College: Brenau University
Current Role: Owner, Launch Pointe Productions

How has your career unfolded and how did participating in 21CL help prepare you for your next steps going to college, taking on a new leadership role in community/college and after?

Brandi Harrison

I first participated in 21CL almost 30 years ago, and that experience continues to impact my career! Being exposed to business at an early age has meant I’ve always been comfortable stepping into board rooms, giving presentations to senior management, and building teams to succeed at a task. In my first position as an Associate Producer, I understood how to communicate well with my co-workers and manager because of the team challenges we were given in 21CL. Later, when I became a Director of Operations with direct reports, I knew how to set a clear vision for my team because of the leadership skills I had learned. And now, as an entrepreneur with 3 successful businesses with my husband, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to take on this challenge without having experienced success doing uncomfortable challenges with 21CL. The programs at 21st Century Leaders do an amazing job of honing in on the skills of the individual, while making you focus on the success of the group. It’s only now, looking back at my career, that I can connect the dots!

What’s your memorable or ‘aha’ moment during your time at 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peer, speaking in public for the first time, etc.)

I spent two amazing summers during high school at the Summer Business Academy. For a week each year, I was immersed in a challenging environment with a diverse group of incredibly smart students and a high expectation of excellence set by the instructors. From trust falls to group projects, the time I spent with these other young adults was truly rewarding. During the second summer, as I was a rising senior, we were broken into groups and given a real business challenge at the start of the week. By the end of the week, we would need to present our solution to the professionals. Every minute that we weren’t sleeping, we were working on our presentation, tweaking after we learned new concepts in sessions throughout the week. Nerves were high when we arrived at the corporate location that morning. While I can’t tell you a single thing about the business challenge, I vividly remember stepping into the board room knowing that I belonged there and had something important to say. I’ve carried that memory with me, anchoring to it when needed in both big and small moments of my career. 

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so, how? 

21CL was the first place that I learned about leadership styles! Understanding how I naturally lead and communicate was empowering. And then being able to adjust to styles needed by my team felt like magic! My whole career has been focused around building the right team for the project and effectively leading that team can be pivotal to its success. 

Why do you believe programs like 21CL are important? And what advice would you give to a current or future student?

21CL bridges the gap in education for students to really learn about themselves and how their uniqueness can translate to success in college, their careers, and being a positive impact to their community. Even as a high performing magnet school student, there was no other place that I received this level of exposure to possibilities and focused internal growth. In order to meet the needs of future challenges, we need to teach the next generation the skills that they will need. And 21CL is essential to that process.

My advice for students attending the program is to push and challenge yourself to take on the leadership role that feels uncomfortable. Talk to the students you don’t think you have anything in common with. What feels awkward now could be a key to your success!

Inspired? Share this story with your network.

Alumni Spotlight: Brandi Harrison

Brandi Harrison, is the Senior Manager of Production Operations and Crewing at Turner, a graduate of H.V. Jenkins High School (1997) and of Brenau University (2001). She is an alumna of 21st Century Leaders and now serves as chairperson of the 21CL Junior Board of Directors. At the Georgia Youth Leadership Awards (GYLA 2019) event which took place on March 2, 2019, Brandi was our keynote alumni speaker and gave a moving speech and talked about the inspiration, skills and values she acquired during her 21CL years. She also encouraged everyone who has been impacted by program to give back.

Following is part of her speech:

“I’m thrilled to be here tonight in the presence of such amazing students who are shaping the future right before our eyes! I’m in awe of the vision and determination that each of you have shown in the projects you’ve created. And it makes me think about my experiences with 21st Century Leaders.

I went through the summer program twice, in ’95 and ’96, as a rising junior and a rising senior. Back then, each level had a focus – for instance, the rising sophomores had to start a business and most of them sold chips and candy throughout the week – so you always knew who to hit up for a midnight snack in the dorms!

I know for a fact that I can draw a direct line between those 2 summers and who I am today.

  • In that intimate environment, I learned to work with a wide diverse group of students from all over GA and it shattered any stereotype that I had of “city people” or “country people”. A trait that helps me manage my current staff of 12 today.
  • I worked on real business projects and presented solutions to professionals which required me to ask thought provoking questions and understand company’s pain points. Skills that I use every day to find efficiencies in how we manage our production studios and resources at Turner.
  • And I was required to lead – not asked, not just suggested. There was an expectation that I would build teams, mentor others, and be a strong teammate to other leaders. I’ve used that talent to secure every job I’ve ever earned. And I’ll rely on it as I step into the new role of Chairman for our very first 21st Century Leaders Junior Board. Together, along with the other alumni on the Junior Board, we have a goal to reach out and galvanize our 14 thousand alumni… reconnecting them to the program and its mission.

All of those skills and expectations were originally ignited 30 years ago and fueled by the passion of our very own, Bob Watson!

Bob is such a special person. The first time I met him was my very first day of my first camp. I was walking up to the registration table and Bob happened to be standing there. He asked my name and once I said Brandi Harrison, his face LIT UP! He knew me and he was excited to meet me. As a 15 year old it was so memorable, there are few adults, outside of family that are thrilled to meet you! In the moment I thought I was special, but as I watched him the rest of the day, he had that same reaction to every single student he met and he’d mentioned tidbits from their application and interviews.

Bob has carried that same excitement and passion through every stage of building 21st Century Leaders into the organization it is today. And I know each and every one of you here have been impacted by 21st Century Leaders and touched by Bob’s passion.

Brandi went on to encourage everyone who had been impacted by 21st Century Leaders to support the organization, which lead into our crowdfunding campaign for the “Robert Watson Scholarship” that evening.

As Chairperson for the Junior Board of Directors, Brandi encourages all of our alumni to reengage with 21st Century Leaders in some way. Join a committee with the Junior Board, volunteer with the program and events, or donate to help future generations lead. 

Thank you, Brandi! Congratulations on all of your success thus far, and thank you for giving back to 21st Century Leaders.