#Breaking Barriers: Colts, Irsays to Help Expand Leadership Programs for Local African American Youth


Steve Campbell, [email protected], 317-941-9070
Kelsey Taylor, [email protected], 317-923-8111 



 Indianapolis – The Indianapolis Colts and team owner & CEO Jim Irsay today announced a gift to the Center for Leadership Development (CLD), the Indianapolis nonprofit that for four decades has transformed the lives of African American youth in overcoming pervasive challenges by equipping them for post-secondary success with the tools, values and skills needed to flourish and enrich their communities.

The gift will help CLD expand its headquarters on the west side of Indianapolis, establish satellite locations in high crime, low income areas and increase program participation to 6,500 youth annually.

“The Center for Leadership Development is one of our city’s most effective youth organizations, and its track record of developing and producing outstanding Black business and community leaders is second to none,” said Irsay.  “We are proud to partner with CLD to provide these important opportunities to more young people across our city, especially during this time of discussion about systemic racism and the barriers it creates for people of color in our community.”

CLD has a proven record of placing African American youth grades 4-12 on an academic, college and career track so they can become professional, business and community leaders. Working to close the achievement gap, CLD offers 15 values-based programs and free educational services that instill five Principles for Success: character development, educational excellence, leadership effectiveness, community service and career achievement.

As a result, the high school graduation rate for CLD alumni is 94 percent, with 71 percent of those alumni going on to enroll in a post-secondary institution or program. In addition, CLD and participating colleges have offered more than $30 million in scholarships for CLD alumni to continue their educational journey in Indiana and beyond.

“We are deeply grateful to Mr. Irsay and the entire Indianapolis Colts organization for their wonderful investment in the Center for Leadership Development mission and in the youth we help achieve their highest potential,” said Dennis Bland, CLD president.  “We are honored to be included as one of the Colts’ community partners in their meaningful Breaking Barriers initiative and look forward to teaming up with them to make even greater positive impact on hundreds of youth and families throughout our city.”

This partnership is an extension of the #BreakingBarriers initiative, which the Colts launched in 2018 to support organizations and efforts that battle systemic racism and reduce barriers to opportunity.  The initiative focuses on racial equity, educational and economic mobility, community-police relations, voter education and criminal justice reform.

In addition to this gift, the Colts this summer have announced other steps to advance #BreakingBarriers:

  • Created the Irsay Family Impact Scholarship, which when fully established, will cover the costs of a four-year education at Indiana University (or the equivalent of four-years of IU tuition at another college) for a talented minority student with a financial need every year.  The scholarship also will cover costs associated with high school college preparation, which could include tutoring costs or tuition assistance at a college prep high school.
  • Created a new staff position, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, who will work across all Colts departments on internal diversity initiatives, as well as with external stakeholders and partners on efforts throughout the community.
  • Recognized “Juneteenth” – the June 19 holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War – as a permanent company holiday.