Rebecca Asmo is the winner of the small nonprofit award.

About: Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus provides after-school learning opportunities for nearly 6,000 youngsters at central Ohio clubs in three counties.

In Position: Since 2010

Previous: Development roles with the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Ohio Historical Society and Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus

Rebecca Asmo has a tough time pinpointing how she transformed her art history major into a job as the chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus eight years ago. But she speculates that the answer might lie in her grit and willingness to learn from her mistakes.

“There were a lot of times here I just had to put my head down and muddle through,” says the 38-year-old, who has led the 60-year-old organization through a massive period of growth during her tenure. “I don’t have a leadership philosophy; I just try every day to show up, do the best I can and do what’s best for kids.”

Asmo’s journey to the Boys & Girls Clubs began at Georgetown University, where Asmo majored in art history and graduated in 2002. She took a job in development with the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., moved to Ohio to work for the Ohio Historical Society and then landed at the Boys & Girls Clubs in 2008, working in development. Two years later, she was hired as the CEO at the age of 30.

Back then, the organization served about 2,000 youngsters at just two sites with a $750,000 budget. Under Asmo’s leadership, the club has grown to help nearly 6,000 youngsters at 11 sites and has a $4 million budget.

“My personal challenge is trying to get it all done,” says Asmo. “I always like to take on new and different things, and that can be hard. We have a lot on our plate.”

That includes a new athletic program sponsored by the Lindy Infante Foundation. The foundation was founded by Stephanie and Brad Infante to honor Brad’s late father, Lindy, who gained fame as coach of the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts.

A $225,000 donation from the foundation allowed the Boys & Girls Clubs to hire an athletic director and to create athletic leagues this fall for kindergarten-through-sixth graders at six club locations. One key to the donation, says Stephanie Infante, was Asmo. “The one thing that really locked it in for me was Rebecca’s relationship with the children she serves,” Stephanie Infante says. “She’s genuine and authentic, truly a servant leader who serves from her heart. She’s brilliant and a walking book of knowledge when it comes to underserved youth.”

Asmo also is the mother of two young children. But she doesn’t stress out about balancing her career with her family life. “Being a mom is part of my life and being a CEO is part of my life,” she says. “And while I have to work a lot, I have a lot of flexibility that’s very helpful. I’m really fulfilled in my job, and I think that makes me a better mom.”

Asmo says she’s always learning how to be a better leader and as recently as October had what she called a great “aha” moment at a leadership conference.

“I always thought my purpose was to be a voice for kids, but at this conference, I realized my purpose as a leader is not to serve kids and help them directly but to lead and support my team to do that,” she says. “My purpose is to help inspire my staff to help kids. I knew that intellectually, but now it’s changed in my heart.”

Going forward, Asmo says she hopes to continue the growth of the Boys & Girls Clubs so more youngsters can be served in needy areas and more services can be offered. She hopes being honored by Columbus CEO can speed that goal.

“It’s great to get recognition from your community, because I know some amazing people have received that award,” Asmo says. “It feels really good that the community feels the importance of the Boys & Girls Clubs and has been so supportive of me.”

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FINALISTS

Shawn Holt, CEO, Maryhaven

For the past two years, Shawn Holt has put his 25 years of experience in behavioral health and advocacy services to use at Maryhaven. Coincidentally, that was the first time in 25 years Maryhaven needed a new leader.

The entirety of Holt’s career has been spent in Columbus, serving various nonprofits and government organizations. His experiences range from a caseworker supervisor at Franklin Country Children’s Services to state director of the National Youth Advocate Program, and most recently as president and CEO of St. Vincent Family Center.

Holt’s career path is personal—his father died of cirrhosis of the liver when he was a child. Maryhaven is the city’s oldest behavioral-health center having started in 1953. It offers aid to those struggling with addiction, providing respect and loyalty to patients and ensuring responsiveness and accountability to organization stakeholders.

Jane Scott, President and CEO, Columbus Metropolitan Club

Since 2003, Jane Scott has been at the helm of the Columbus Metropolitan Club, a nonprofit serving 1,300 members. It has been delivering events centered on important local topics for 43 years.

Her current role represents a pivot from her original occupational plans. During college, Scott was one of the only women in Ohio State University’s agricultural program, and for 22 years prior to her position with CMC, Scott co-owned Wyandotte Wine Cellars. In spite of this, she was encouraged by those who knew her to apply for the position at CMC because it seemed like a good fit. She is active in the community, having served on many agricultural boards, including the Ohio Agricultural Council, OSU Food Ag and Environmental Sciences Dean’s Advisory Board and Ohio Grape Industries Committee. She currently serves on the advisory board of the Franklin County Extension Services and the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Board.

Brian Ross, CEO, Experience Columbus

You can thank Brian Ross, in part, for bolstering Columbus’ growing reputation as a tourism destination. The CEO of Experience Columbus has years of practice working in the industry as a former Hyatt Hotels & Resorts executive—but now, he’s welcoming people to Columbus.

Ross started as VP of sales in 2007, and rose to his current position just under six years later. Ross led the organization to open national sales offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, and add a sales position that focuses on niche leisure group travel markets such as family reunions, bank travel, religious groups and the LGBT travel market. On his watch as CEO, the city enjoyed its highest-to-date bed-tax revenue and successfully hosted the NCAA Women’s Final Four, among other achievements.

Experience Columbus’ strategic plan into 2020 focuses on both increasing the economic impact and local jobs from travel and tourism, and showcasing our authenticity and creativity.