Legacy Partner Spotlight: Warner Bros. Discovery

21st Century Leaders Celebrates 35-Year Partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery

(Atlanta, GA) For 35 years, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), formerly Turner, has been supporting and partnering with 21st Century Leaders (21CL) to inspire youth to lead. In three decades, this legacy partnership has served over 17,000 of Georgia’s high school students with career and leadership training, including volunteer opportunities, paid internships, a student-led social enterprise business developed by students and Cartoon Network managers, and even employment for industry-inspired 21CL alumni!

21st Century Leaders began in 1989 as the Georgia Business Forum, changing names in 1996 to 21st Century Leaders (21CL). The organization launched its first “summer business academy” in 1991, focusing on business education and diversity training for Georgia’s high school students to prepare for leadership roles in the workforce and in their communities. Since its beginning, 21CL has partnered with companies to provide equitable opportunities for youth to access professionals, career knowledge, resources for service and leadership, and confidence for their future pathways.

It was the early 1990’s when a community affairs executive at Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), Terri Tingle, solidified the collaborative relationship between 21CL and the Atlanta-based media company, establishing a legacy of support that continues today through sponsorship, program development, employee engagement and Board membership.

Then, it was Dennis Quinn, Executive Vice President at Turner at the time, and 21CL’s Board Chair in the early 2000’s, whose forward-thinking passion for leadership drove the creation of 21CL’s first co-branded summer leadership institute in 2006 called Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience. That became a pivotal turning point for the organization. Bob Watson, Founding Executive Director of 21st Century Leaders says, “He is a really great example of what committed leadership could do.”

Warner Bros. Discovery had been sponsoring corporate exploration days and year round programming including, for several years, the Cartoon Network Closet, a unique work experience for high school students. This student-run social enterprise gave high school students a paid or credited work experience running a storefront on eBay selling branded items donated by the network to support 21st Century Leaders, as well as the opportunity to work with network managers and executives on collaborative special projects. Dennis Adamovich, who currently serves on 21CL’s Advisory Council, led this Initiative when he was SVP of Marketing for Cartoon Network during the early 2000s, proving once again that committed leadership drives impact. Building on years of support and collaboration, WBD’s sponsorship of a week-long program introduced a new level of impact and sustainability to the partnership.

Images of Turner Voices events photographed on Monday, June 19, 2017 in Atlanta, GA. Photo by John Nowak/TBS

For 18 summers from 2006 to 2023, Warner Bros. Discovery’s support of this media-focused summer program allowed nearly 1,800 high school students to participate at no cost in a curated, premier residential program and gain invaluable insights and access into the media and entertainment industry that continues to expand in Georgia. The name of the institute changed over the years as the company evolved, but their commitment to investing in future talent and youth leadership stayed consistent and even grew with the inclusion of a paid summer institute exclusively available to high school senior students from WBD’s organizational partners (like 21CL). 

“Warner Bros. Discovery is proud of our longstanding partnership with 21st Century Leaders, and we celebrate their achievements over these last 35 years. Throughout our partnership, we have been fortunate to work with the incredible 21CL team to co-create engaging in-depth student programs focused on building career pathways in the media and entertainment industry. I am proud to have witnessed first-hand the impact of the work, seeing so many 21CL students pursuing careers in the media industry and even joining our company as interns and full-time employees. We look forward to elevating our reach this year and remaining a source of mentorship and inspiration for the future leaders of our industry,” says Sydney Langdon, Senior Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at WBD.

“Warner Bros. Discovery’s commitment has never waivered for three decades. Not many nonprofits can say that about their partners. To me, that only shows their committed and passionate leadership, shared values, and strong belief in the work 21st Century Leaders has done and continues to do for Georgia’s youth,” says Kate Hewitt, Executive Director for 21st Century Leaders. “Our collective investment in inspiring and developing diverse storytellers and leaders has left, and continues to leave, an indelible mark on Georgia’s communities and beyond.”

As we celebrate our 35th anniversary in 2024, Warner Bros. Discovery continues to support 21CL as a legacy partner. In addition to producing in-kind videos highlighting our Georgia Youth Leadership Award winners, they will be one of our partners for our new Film & Entertainment Institute launching in summer 2024, and they are the presenting sponsor of our annual fundraising event, the Be the Inspiration Gala, taking place on Saturday, March 23, 2024 at Zoo Atlanta.

Several of the featured Alumni Spotlights share the impact this company has had on them whether during a program or now as an employee.

Written by Nicole Meadows, Dir. of Programs & Communications, 21st Century Leaders (21CL Alumni)

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