Youth commission chief was born to lead

COMMENTARY /// Profiles in leadership

TALENTED TEEN TAKES CHARGE—Nicole Katz serves as the chairperson of the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission. Courtesy photo

TALENTED TEEN TAKES CHARGE—Nicole Katz serves as the chairperson of the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission. Courtesy photo

Nicole Katz exudes a confidence you’d expect in a community leader, but not necessarily in one who is only 17 years old.

Born and raised in Thousand Oaks, Nicole is now a senior at Newbury Park High School. Her warmth, eye contact, poise and people skills reflect a youth significantly ahead of most her age.

Like other students gifted in leadership, she began demonstrating her talents early on. She recalls her formal role in the second grade, when she ran for classroom representative.

She was selected for the position and enjoyed being involved in the school community and engaging her peers.

She also connected with the student government group advisor, Mr. Squire, who encouraged her to run for office and do public speaking events at her elementary school.

Nicole is currently the chairperson of the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission’s 13-member council ( Through this agency, sponsored by the City of Thousand Oaks and facilitated by Francine Sprigel, Nicole has had unique opportunities to hone her leadership skills.

In addition to facilitating monthly meetings that are video recorded and posted on the city’s website, she’s planned and executed recreational activities such as the Teen $5 Friday at Art Trek in Newbury Park.

In addition to the influence of the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission, Nicole recognizes the value of her parents’ support in the development of her leadership skills.

“They’ve always provided a safe space where I can effectively communicate thoughts and feelings, helping me become a collaborative communicator,” she told me. “I know that for many parents, letting their kids grow up and become more independent isn’t easy.”

Because of this freedom, Nicole has gained confidence in herself as a young woman leader.

Her advice to younger students who enjoy leading: Take advantage of opportunities in school and the community.

The first time Nicole applied to the Youth Commission, she wasn’t accepted; now she chairs the group.

She suggests starting small and learning about how organizations work and what your particular abilities are. As you gain more knowledge, you can work your way up to bigger opportunities.

“Every opportunity you receive in leadership helps you learn more about your peers, community, local needs and yourself,” she said.

The future is bright for Nicole.

She’s applied to Pepperdine University, her dream school, where she hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree before moving on to graduate school.

Her long-term goals include corporate and political aspirations.

“I want to be in corporate levels of business, local government and perhaps Congress, eventually,” she said.

Based on what Nicole has done so far, she’ll be influential for decades to come.

Nelson is the founder of LeadYoung Institute in the Conejo Valley ( He teaches leadership at USC Marshall School of Business and the Naval Postgraduate School.