The flagship event of the CELA's calendar - CELA 13 Leadership Academy - took place from June 29 to July 8 at the American University of Bulgaria (AUBG) in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. AUBG welcomed CELA's thirteenth Academy, which brought together the biggest class ever - 47 successful, bright and outstanding fellows from the Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Mongolia.

This year's Academy was very special in so many different ways. It took place in a new location - the American University of Bulgaria, a cozy and beautiful campus in the small city the Blagoevgrad, 100 km away from Bulgaria's capital Sofia. AUBG was chosen after an extensive look at alternatives to Koç University, where all of CELA's previous academies had been held.
CELA-13 hosted the biggest class ever - forty-seven (!) participants from 10 countries. Despite the class's size, the Academy was still a huge success thanks to the amazing dedication of faculty members, facilitators, staff, interns and, most importantly, participants.

This year CELA brought in our tenth country as Mongolia joined our network. Three incredible representatives of Mongolia - Tuya, Zolo, and Mandi - are now CELA pioneers in expanding our network to the "Land of the Eternal Blue Sky". We hope to host one of our nearest reunions in this mysterious and fascinating homeland of Chinggis Khan- the great conqueror of the 13th century.

This year was inspiring due to the participation of special Gulnaz Zhuzbaeva, a visually impaired participant from Kyrgyzstan, whose dream to see the world gave us all tremendous motivation that there is nothing impossible. We sincerely thank CELA Global and CELA Kyrgyzstan for the wonderful gift that enabled us to embrace this beautiful soul that is extremely passionate about helping others through her Foundation. It was very moving to witness a surprise presented at the Graduation Ceremony by her CELA 13 classmates, who raised $5,000 cash during the Academy to support Gulnaz's noble dream to train young visually impaired people back home. Simply impressive!

CELA 13 was fortunate to have alumni facilitators from all sister networks - CELA (Elchin from Azerbaijan, Gvantsa from Georgia), MELA (Said from Oman, Rada, Randi and Salma from Jordan), SEALA (Saad from Pakistan) and NALA/SIBF Academy (Heather, Bobby and Linh from the United States) - who made it more special and valuable. Adding these perspectives to our usual American group made our eight learning groups all special.

In addition to the Academy's thoroughly designed agenda, learning materials, a series of role-playing exercises, simulations, case studies and team presentations, participants were able to work with members of the SIBF - who came as presenters, faculty, facilitators and mentors, bringing their real-life experiences to the program to give it a highly practical flavor. Naturally, we cannot imagine CELA academies without our main mind-blowing speakers and CELA family members - our dear John King, Bill Starnes, and Michael Kouly, who know how to steer you back in the right direction in no time. J CELA member Rashad Bayramov was part of the faculty as a communications speaker and coach for our participants. Additionally, we added a new speaker in Merrick Furst from Atlanta for his presentations and exercises on Reliable Innovation.

This majority of this year's class came business, from big international corporations to mid-sized and small commercial enterprises with many entrepreneurs, but there were also academic, government and civil society participants. They were all at the consistently high level we have come to expect in a CELA Academy. We thank our country teams for their work in nominating and selecting such a high quality, large and diverse class. The CELA 13 class will be joining a network organization now linking almost 500 leaders and change agents across ten countries. You may learn about each CELA 13 participant in CELA 13 Biobook, a printed copy of which was generously sponsored by Susan Sutterfield and Muzaffar Atamirzaev. So, please welcome our brand new fantastic CELA 13 addition to CELA family!

We made sure that our alumni and friends from other networks stay up to date with the Leadership Academy news via our social media accounts: 

1) CELA YouTube channel
2) Official Facebook page
3) CELA Facebook Group
4) CELA Twitter account
5) CELA Instagram account
6) CELA 13 blog

We would like to use this opportunity to thank every single person, who was a part of this beautiful journey, for believing and for being a motivational drive in making it happen.

Once again, we welcome the new class of CELA fellows into our greater CELA family!