Focus Louisville: Getting Off the Bench and Into the Game

Kaitlyn Clay

Kaitlyn Clay, FL 2022 graduate

I accepted a position with the Leadership Louisville Center at the beginning of the year as the Digital Marketing Specialist. Some of my new coworkers had shared that a big perk of the job is participating in some of our programs. After graduating from Focus Louisville this March, I realize I had taken this perk a little too lightly when accepting the offer.

I assumed I would be going through Focus to be able to promote it better on social media or to capture photos for us to share later on down the road. And while both of those things did happen, the eye-opening experience I had with the city I’ve lived in for nearly a decade was worth so much more to me.


I had attended the Kentucky Derby in the past, but I had never given much thought to the track other than the joy my friends and I have had at the races (or my anger when I lost a bet). As the program shifted our focus to needs in the Louisville Community, I was a part of the group who traveled to the Backside Learning Center – a nonprofit on the backside of Churchill Downs. The staff and volunteers there work to build community and enrich the lives of backside workers and families at the track. I had no idea this nonprofit existed in our city, and immediately signed up to volunteer after seeing the positive impact the group is making on the lives of backside workers.


Prior to this experience I thought that I had spent time in nearly every neighborhood in Louisville, but I was once again proven wrong. I had completely missed numerous areas of the West End of the city. As we took a driving tour on our way to the newly-built Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Center, Dr. Tom Owen, professor and historian at the University of Louisville, explained the details of Louisville’s history: when it was created, why it existed, and what an important part West Louisville played in it.

A group from the Focus Louisville March 2022 class who visited the Backside Learning Center.

To hear about the neglect the communities in the West End have been experiencing was eye opening to say the least. There is much, much more to be done, but it was uplifting to hear about some initiatives that are taking shape to enhance that important side of the city – including the hospital and opportunities campus being built by Goodwill and Norton Healthcare that is set to open in the Parkland neighborhood in 2023.


My biggest takeaway from Focus is that Louisville has a lot of room to grow. But the important thing I also noticed is that there are some passionate people at the heads of many Louisville nonprofits. These organizations are generating amazing ideas for evolving the city to be much more than what it was and what it is currently. Most ideas start with one person, but it takes a lot of minds and hands to get them brought to fruition. And because of Focus Louisville, I intend to become more involved as one of those gamechangers.

I urge anyone who is looking to learn more or get more connected with our city to apply for Focus Louisville. It changed my perspective, made me realize I was sitting on the sidelines, and ultimately, to get in the game.

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