Lauren Lafferty

At the last VCLA session, you could feel how people are really starting to connect. It is amazing to watch people form relationships and talk about things that will truly make our community a better place to live.

Lauren Lafferty (Cohort XXVIII), Development Coordinator, Women's Economic Ventures (WEV)

Edith Campa

As a Ventura County native, I was surprised at the number of new things I learned about our community through Ventura County Leadership Academy. This intense nine-month program allowed me to hear from distinct leaders from a variety of industries, and better prepared me to come together with my fellow cohort to solve issues facing our county.

My favorite session was when we visited the fields for our agricultural session. We learned about the agricultural business from a small local farmer’s perspective and that of a large agri-business.  We visited the berry fields of our county where I became nostalgic, as many of these farms have been harvested by my parents for over 50 years. As a daughter of these strawberry fields, I enjoyed walking the soil and feeling the plants and learning about how we can help the new generation of farm workers—definitely a full-circle experience.

For anyone interested in VCLA, I encourage you to do it. If you are a native, you will appreciate our community even more; If you are new to our county and join, as I have learned, you will bloom where you are planted and you won’t regret it!

Edith Campa (Cohort XXVII), Financial Inclusion and Education Manager, Ventura County Credit Union

Stuart Orlinsky

My journey with Ventura County Leadership Academy has been one of the best experiences in my professional career. VCLA has given me a breadth of knowledge about Ventura County that I had not known in my 37 years of living here. The most meaningful part of the program however, has been the connections I have made with my fellow cohorts. VCLA has taught me that leadership is more than focusing on doing your best in what you do, it is also learning how to connect with many different people outside of your world to further their journey as well as your own. VCLA is priceless, helping me make meaningful relationships with thoughtful & passionate individuals who everyday improve the lives of the people living in Ventura County.

Stuart Orlinsky (Cohort XXVII), Program Operations Analysis Officer, Child Development Resources of Ventura County

PJ Gagajena

As a new resident and employee to Moorpark and Ventura County, VCLA opened my eyes to the various challenges and opportunities facing our region. The program connected me with key stakeholders and passionate individuals committed to improving people's lives, serving their communities, exchanging ideas, and supporting each other’s work. I am very honored, deeply touched, and truly inspired by the incredible people I have met through the program. The staff, board of directors, alumni, guest speakers, supporters and allies, and my cohort were so welcoming that I can honestly say I found a new family in Ventura County!

My deepest thanks to VCLA’s founder, the late and great Dr. Pricilla Partridge de Garcia, for leaving a legacy; Executive Director Pattie Braga for her leadership; the VCLA Board of Directors for their vision; and my cohort, the 27 Legends, for making the experience absolutely legendary!

PJ Gagajena (Cohort XXVII), Assistant City Manager, City of Moorpark

Marcelo Bermudez

VCLA Alumni Marcelo Bermudez turned his cohort reflection into a recruitment video! Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDjPXhWYP6U

Marcelo Bermudez (Cohort XXVII), Chief Executive Officer, Shōkunin, Inc.

Jenn Harkey

"If you’re looking for an opportunity to learn from local leaders and grow in your professional development, then Ventura County Leadership Academy is the perfect choice! VCLA offers a truly diverse learning experience where we hear about critical issues in our own community, such as water sustainability to support agriculture and the affordable housing crisis. We get to learn from local leaders about how our community is responding with creative solutions. The sessions also challenge us as leaders to come up with new strategies to address these issues. One of the best parts of VCLA has been the relationship building with colleagues in different sectors. We need a collaborative approach when we’re tackling major issues, like addressing homelessness. I’m proud to be a part of the solution with VCLA and choosing to make a positive impact in our community."

Jenn Harkey (Cohort XXVII), Program Management Analyst, County of Ventura

Terrance Dixon

"Being a part of VCLA has been the most memorable experience I've had in my life since living in Mexico. I was born and raised in Texas but moved to Ventura County almost seven years ago and this program not only made me realize why I moved here, but made it clear that this is where I want to grow and call my home. To say I have learned a lot from VCLA would be an understatement because this has been a life-changing experience. The leadership skills that I have learned, the information that was shared with the Cohort (both personal and professional), and the relationships that I made through VCLA is truly invaluable.  I feel like I am a better person, leader, & overall man because of VCLA."

Terrance Dixon (Cohort XVIII), Advertising, Ventura County Star

Katlyn Simber-Clickener

"The benefits that this program offers reaches far beyond what is expected. The amount of knowledge you gain, friendships you make, and overall feeling of wanting to help, are all incredible gifts you get from this program."

Katlyn Simber-Clickener (Cohort XXVI), Recreation Coordinator, Pleasant Valley Recreation & Park District

Jennifer Duston

"Although the majority of my VCLA experience took place during Covid and on Zoom I can’t tell you how invaluable this experience was. Aside from learning so much about our county and widening my focus from serving my own city, I met people with whom we WILL make a difference. The thing about VCLA is your are surrounded by All Stars. All Stars in many different areas, and when you bring these All Stars together we do great things. A casual conversation turns into a lunch date which turns into attending a meeting one of your cohorts is passionate about and before you know it you are using your strengths, your passion and connections to impact something you never even knew existed. VCLA will change your life in ways you will never imagine, but more importantly your life will be used in ways to make your community better, in more ways than you could ever dream of."

Jennifer Duston (Cohort XXVI), Client Partner, Franklin Covey