Elgin Area Leadership Academy

The award-winning Elgin Area Leadership Academy is an experience for individuals interested in building an understanding of community leadership through exposure, enrichment and engagement. This premier program crafts and delivers a curriculum specifically designed to assist individuals in becoming active and engaged leaders in their community.

EALA is a 10-month program featuring distinguished community leaders, content experts and successful executives in the Elgin area sharing their ideas, perspectives and experiences. Monthly programs provide individuals with the skills, knowledge, connections and engagement necessary to develop and leverage a strong professional network of future and current Elgin leaders in all industry types.

Founded in 1990, more than 475 individuals have graduated from the Academy volunteering in virtually all aspects of the community. The next class will begin in September, 2016 and applications for enrollment will begin being accepted in March, 2016. Class size is limited and the application  process is competitive.

Congratulations to the EALA Class of 2014-15  










Row One from left: Melissa Ziel, Gail Borden Public Library; Trish Glees , T.G. Consultants Inc.; Arisleyda Taylor, Weiss-Rohlig USA LLC; Raquel Robelo, School District U-46; Theresa Higareda, PADS of Elgin. 

Row Two: Toya Webb, Elgin Community College; Dennis Verges, Dainippon Screen Graphics (USA); Donna Kline, Community Representative; Adriana Barriga, Snap Translations.

Row Three: Ruth Munson, EALA; Rachel Traficanti, Grand Victoria Foundation; Aliana Aquino, PetroLiance LLC.; Elissa Kojzarek, United Way of Elgin; Jase Cruz, Old Second National Bank; Jenni Betancourt, Dewberry;  Tina Viglucci, Gail Borden Public Library; Bonifacio Mondragon, Re/Max Horizon.

Row Four: Dan Fox, EALA; Don Waters, EALA; Reggie Kee, Columbia College Chicago; Larry Henderson, Jr., The Kingdom Advancement Center; Tom McGrath, Lamp Incorporated; Jaime Cadengo, School District U-46; William Gieske, Seigle's Cabinet Center; Corey Dixon, IL Dept of Human Services. Not pictured: Jason Ball, Bank of America; Kathy Meisinger, ECC

About the Academy

The Academy is led by community volunteers Dan Fox, Don Waters and Ruth Munson who have extensive leadership involvement in Elgin.. Through their guidance, participants receive skills and knowledge necessary to become an effective leader through a curriculum built around community issues, including city government, economic development, ethics, health care resources, education and much, much more.

EALA is a rewarding experience designed to meet our community’s needs for active and future leaders.


DAN FOX, M.A. Dan is a graduate of Southern Illinois University and Northeastern Illinois University with an emphasis in government and political science. He taught social studies for 33 years at Conant High School where he coached and, in 1973, initiated one of the first mandatory student community service programs in Illinois. He served eight years on the Elgin City Council, was President of the Elgin Literacy Connection and served on the Elgin Planning and Development Commission. Dan is serving on the Board of PADS of Elgin and is a co-founder and co-facilitator of the award winning Elgin Area Leadership Academy, now in its sixteenth year.



DON WATERS, Ed.D. Don is a graduate of Ball State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia with an emphasis in administration of higher education and counseling. He has had extensive experience in leadership development and organizational planning. He was Vice President of Elgin Community College and a high school guidance counselor. He was President of the National Council for Resource Development and the President of the Illinois Council for Resource Development. In the community, he has served on the Elgin City Council for seven years, was President of the Elgin Kiwanis Club, Vice President of United Way Board and President of the Golden Corridor Economic Development Council. He also was a co-founder and is currently co-facilitator of the Elgin Leadership Academy.



RUTH MUNSON graduated from Northern Illinois University In 1981 with a BA in political science. An owner of a small technology firm, Ruth and her family moved to Elgin in 1990. She knew a good thing when she saw it and promptly enrolled in the first class of the Elgin Area Leadership Academy. Since graduating from the EALA, Ruth has led the effort to construct a community-built playground and co-founded both the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin and the award-winning Fiesta Salsa. She served on the boards of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Heritage Coalition, Economic Development Council, Elgin Community College Foundation and McKinley School PTO. Additionally, she was a member of the Kiwanis Club of Elgin, Elgin Hispanic Network, United Way distribution committee and participated in numerous other local boards and community-based efforts. Ruth served four years on the Elgin City Council and six years as State Representative in the Illinois General Assembly before proudly joining her mentors, Dan Fox and Don Waters, in 2012 as an EALA facilitator.



  • Judy Cabrera, Community Leader
  • Nathaniel Edmond, Pastor, Second Baptist Church of Elgin
  • Marc Falk, Sr., American Chartered Bank
  • Dan Fox, Elgin Area Leadership Academy
  • Carol Gieske, President & CEO, Elgin Area Chamber
  • Teresa Gray, Kinane Gray LLC
  • Bob Malm, EDG Director, Elgin Area Chamber
  • Michael McKay, Financial Advisor, Edward Jones Investments
  • Ruth Munson, Elgin Area Leadership Academy
  • Don Waters, Elgin Area Leadership Academy


"My experience attending the academy was very beneficial.  The many skills that I gained through the academy have been a valuable asset to me and others as I advance through my career path." Karen Werrbach MSN, RNC-OB, NEA-BC, Director, Women & Children's, Rockford Memorial Hospital

Rich Jacobs says "I thoroughly enjoyed myself when I was in the Academy in 2005-2006. I made many wonderful friends and learned a lot about how I could contribute to my community. I would highly recommend EALA!"

"EALA was a great experience! I developed many friendships, awareness of community needs and how I can help make a difference right here at home," former EALA student