Back for Year Two: the ACA LEAD Program Comes to Tampa, Florida - ACA

Nov 29, 2023

Back for Year Two: the ACA LEAD Program Comes to Tampa, Florida


The ACA Tampa LEAD Program, held from November 10th to 13th, was a remarkable event that brought together the American Canoe Association (ACA), Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers, Sun Coast Youth Conservation Center, and Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network in Apollo Beach, Florida. This was the fifth installment of the Leadership Exploration and Development (LEAD) program, which aims to provide a unique student-centered experience for participants from historically underrepresented communities within the ACA. 

Throughout the four-day program, attendees had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the ACA’s Community Paddlesport Leader curriculum. Guided by Trey Rouss and Jake Fitzroy, the participants engaged in various activities and workshops designed to enhance their leadership skills and knowledge in paddlesports and water safety.

What made this year’s LEAD program particularly special was the involvement of three former LEAD participants – Chris Manning, Adrienne Gallup, and Tatiana Cox-Lopez – who served as mentors to the first-time participants. Their valuable insights and experiences not only provided guidance to the newcomers but also allowed them to further develop their own skills during the event.

“The skills I gained from LEAD in 2022 have directly translated into positive changes within our organization, Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers. LEAD has not only shaped me as a leader but has also been instrumental in fostering a sense of community within Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers. The connections I made with fellow paddlers during LEAD have translated into meaningful relationships. I want to express my deepest gratitude to the ACA for allowing me the opportunity to host this year’s LEAD in my home state of Florida. I was so excited about the opportunity to contribute to the growth of our future leaders in the paddling community,” said 2022 LEAD participant and 2023 LEAD mentor, Tatiana Cox-Lopez.

The ACA Tampa LEAD Program fostered a collaborative and supportive environment, where participants had the opportunity to learn from instructors and mentors, engage in hands-on activities, and form meaningful connections with fellow participants. By combining education, mentorship, and practical experience, the program aimed to equip attendees with the necessary tools to become effective leaders on and off the water.

“The experience was beyond words — diverse, inclusive and awakening to say the least. Sharing my love of the outdoors is one of my biggest passions. The additional paddle sports will be a blessing to my community. Most importantly, it will ensure that the goal of excellent services for ‘all’ looks like a snapshot of the entirety and not just the majority,” shared LEAD participant, Kim Miller.



Photo Credit: The incredible Gil Hidalgo. A special thank you to Gil who has photographed all 5 LEAD Program events. His talent and support have been instrumental in our ability to share the success of these events. From the bottom of our hearts — THANK YOU, Gil!