My plan was to write this blog last night but my mind and body was exhausted from the Dinner with Champions experience at Turner Field's 755 Club. I woke up this morning with my endorphins firing and had to put pen to paper.
Atlanta rallied behind L.E.A.D. in a major way last night. The program started with two great emcees, Sandra Golden and Chuck Dowdle of 680 The Fan. The crowd was welcomed by 2011 Jr. Ambassador Ryan Martin who attends B.E.S.T. Academy. I was moved by his words as he spoke about the impact that L.E.A.D. has on his life. Currently, 34% of Atlanta Public Schools African-American males graduate from high school. As a proud former APS student (Grove Park Elementary School), I know that the school system works but there are so many challenges within inner city Atlanta communities that makes it difficult to reach success. Thus the need for us as mentors to go to bat for inner city males everyday. We serve with dignity and love.
Jacarri Allen who attends John F. Kennedy Middle School spoke about the impact that L.E.A.D. has made in his life. I appreciated him being authentic. He told the audience that he came to L.E.A.D. with poor grades and a bad attitude and 10 months later, his grades continue to suffer. Jacarri is a brilliant kid who is in a transitional phase of his life. He will graduate from high school and enroll in college but it is going to take the support of the Atlanta community to make it possible. When Jacarri shines, America shines.
I am so ready to move mountains after hearing our keynote speaker John Hope Bryant last night. If we really want to make America better, we must invest in our youth. John made it clear to us all last night that it is a mistake to give up on individuals that are in transition in their life. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received a C grade in public speaking while in seminary school. Steve Jobs struggled to make good grades. Our lives are all better today because of contributions to the world by these two powerful men. Thank you John Hope Bryant for answering L.E.A.D.'s call and providing hope to America everyday. I told John at the end of the evening that I am thankful that he wrote his book LOVE LEADERSHIP because it is difficult to take it all in when he is speaking. Dynamic!
Yesterday was a special day for L.E.A.D. to say the least. Thanks to Rendell Jackson, Atlanta Public Schools Office of Athletics and Michael Julian Bond, Atlanta City Councilman, Post 1 At Large, November 20th will always be recognized as C.J. Stewart Day and L.E.A.D. Day in Atlanta, GA. Wow! I have tears of joy again as I write this. This recognition means so much to me. Atlanta has been good to my family for generations. I am Atlanta because I serve. I am Atlanta because I lead. We are Atlanta because we RISE UP!
Special awards were presented to our Legacy Builders Michael J. Russell (HJ Russell & Company) and Sam Bacote. Our Community Partners are Victor Menocal (Excel Sports Management), Chuck Dowdle (680 The Fan), Walter C. Thomas (Thomas Barber Shop), Kathy Brandt (Rotary International), Lincoln Martin (former Houston Astros scout) and Tom Hughes (Hope Beckham PR).
The upcoming year is going to be full of excitement and many more families will be impacted. Communities will be changed because of the support of Atlanta. We are a great city! Let's all commit to increasing the high school graduation rate of African-American males from APS schools. L.E.A.D. has successfully graduated 100% of our Ambassadors from high school and they all have enrolled in college while 89% have enrolled with a baseball scholarship. There are thousands of young men in this city who need us. Click here to join us as we L.E.A.D. Today and Change Tomorrow!
Special thanks to my beautiful wife Kelli Stewart and my amazing daughters Mackenzi and Mackenna. Special thanks to our L.E.A.D. Weekend sponsors Atlanta Braves, Georgia's Own Credit Union, Aramark and 680 The Fan.