Friday, July 27, 2012

"Bad schools" can't be referred to as a zoo

I commonly hear people refer to some low performing schools in the inner city of Atlanta as a zoo. I took the Jr. Ambassadors to the Atlanta City Zoo today and there was nothing negative about that environment.

L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassadors D'Anthony Morrow (left) and Ryan Martin (right) pet the goats at the Atlanta Zoo

The animals are well trained. I observed a staff that was very patient despite dealing with some of the most ferocious animals and reptiles in the world.  My favorite animal at the zoo was the giraffe. Giraffes haven't always had long necks. Through time, their necks stretched and became elongated in order to eat their food from the trees. The lesson to be learned for students is if you don't evolve, you lose out on experiencing the necessities of life.

The Atlanta Zoo is a jewel in our city because it is the home of many animals from across the world. It's less than 15 miles from several of our partner schools within the Atlanta Public Schools System.  Today was more than a field trip. This was a tour of an Atlanta major attraction  that provides another opportunity for our L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassadors to develop a sense of belonging and investment to this great city.

Click here to find a convenient way to support L.E.A.D.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A new day for APS by way of a new culture in Atlanta

The world's largest aquarium is located in Atlanta. Of course it would be along with the world's busiest airport, the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and on and on.  And yes I am bragging because I love my city! The world can enjoy the Georgia Aquarium because of the generosity of Bernie and Billi Marcus.

There is so much to see in several rooms within the aquarium including huge whale sharks, a diversity of of animals found in rivers in South Africa, South America and Georgia. My youngest daughter Mackenna loved the beluga whales in Coldwater Quest.  My favorite was Dolphin Tales.

Today was another day of exposure that L.E.A.D. was able to provide our Jr. Ambassadors by visiting the Georgia Aquarium.  I am personally amazed at how so many different types of fish can live together in the same environment in peace. You have massive sharks in the same tank with otters and smaller fish and it's not a threatening environment.  And how about the divers that share the tank space. You either have to be crazy or knowledgable about the fish and their behaviors.  He moves around casually as I would be at a Braves game.

I am encouraging our Jr. Ambassadors to strive to create and maintain a positive environment within their school. One without bullying. An environment that also allows the teacher to have control.  When I was in school, teachers were able to spend a lot of time teaching because they didn't have to worry too much about disciplining us.  We can get Atlanta Public Schools back to excellence. Their are several social issues that students encounter that will make it difficult but it can be done.  A new culture will soon come that will influence excellence among students in the Atlanta Public School System and our Ambassadors will help lead the way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to change the culture in the inner city of Atlanta

This continues to be an amazing week of exposure for the L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassadors.  On Monday, we toured the World of Coca-Cola and Tuesday we learned how the world gets its news from Atlanta's own CNN.  Today, we were guest at The Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

The L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassadors at the Fernbank Museum entrance
The Fernbank Museum of Natural History educates us all about nature as intended by nature-lover and visionary Emily Harrison in the 1800's. Emily grew up in east Atlanta in an area that she called the "Fernbank".

Natural history is the study of organisms including plants or animals in their environment.  The environment is the social and cultural forces that shape the life of a person or a population.  While at the Fernbank today with the L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassadors, I saw a really cool sign that defined culture for me.

The world "culture" has many meanings.  In this exploration, we define culture as a system of beliefs, values, behaviors and customs that are shared by a group of people and passed down from generation to generation.

As Coach Kelli Stewart said, "We are who we associate with.  If you want to be great, hang around other people that are great!"  L.E.A.D. is a great organization to join and we are focused on creating a new generation of college bound, civically engaged student athletes.

Coach Kelli speaking to the Jr. Ambassadors about a display in the background related to join groups and culture.

L.E.A.D.'s mission is to provide inner city Atlanta middle and high school age males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.  We have partnered with the Atlanta Public Schools System (APS) since 2007.  APS currently graduates 34% of African-American males from high school.  There are currently 47,000 students in APS and 80% of those students live at or below the poverty level.  Lack of education and poverty usually equals crime so it is no surprise that youth living in the 30310, 30315, and 30318 inner city zip codes grow up to represent 80% of the prison population.

Something went terribly wrong generations ago that has caused the terrible problems that exist in the inner city of Atlanta.  However, every problem creates an opportunity.  Thus the reason that my wife Kelli and I established L.E.A.D. in 2007.

We continue to use baseball to make a significant impact on youth in Atlanta.  Impact is so important to us that we measure.  To date, 100% of our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have graduated from high school while 100% have enrolled in college and 90% have enrolled in college with a baseball scholarship.

The negative culture that exists in parts of inner city Atlanta can change but it is going to take a lot of love, consistency from willing and able mentors, youth programs with measurable outcomes, and sharing of resources.

We are L.E.A.D. and welcome your support!  Click here to find ways to join us and continue to change the culture in the inner city of Atlanta.

The L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassadors at the entrance for the Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Monday, July 23, 2012

How about a L.E.A.D. Ambassadors Coke bottle?

The ingredients for Coca-Cola is on the back of the bottles and cans but it's not the secret formula created in 1886 by Dr. John Pemberton. The secret formula is now in The Vault at the World of Coca-Cola.

The Jr. Ambassadors and I had the opportunity to tour the World of Coca-Cola here in our home city. This experience is one of the reasons that so many people from across the world visit Atlanta.

We finished the day with a wiffle ball game in Centennial Olympic Park which my team lost by one run.

To me, Coke is all about tradition, family and legacy.  It's more than a beverage. It's what most people enjoy during holiday's and family gatherings.  It's pretty cool that I'm writing this blog inside the Varsity enjoying 2 chilli slaw dogs with onion rings and a large Coke.

Atlanta has so much history and so many experiences. This was the first visit to the World of Coca-Cola for several of our Jr. Ambassadors.  It's in walking distance for several of them yet off limits due to financial reasons.  Exposure to Atlanta's best has always been important to me because it provides a sense of belonging as well as motivation to achieve greatness.

How about a L.E.A.D. Ambassadors commemorative Coke bottle?  Click here to help us achieve this and many other academic and civic goals by attending upcoming events, joining our Tailgate Club and donations.

L.E.A.D. is one big family committed to our mission to provide inner city Atlanta at-risk males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball. And we drink a lot of Coke.  

Tomorrow we are visiting the CNN Center. Look out for my next blog tomorrow. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Georgia's Own has my back

Today we went to Georgia’s Own Credit Union Corporate Office and it turned out to be much better than I thought. We were guest of the CEO Dave Preter and CMO Kelly Garmon. I was expecting them to talk to us all day about boring stuff, but it was actually pretty fun. They talked to us a little bit about the company and how to manage your money wisely. We had visits from different people in the company and we also took a tour of the place. At the end we also got to play some fun trivia games. I have my own account with Georgia’s Own that I got just last year. It’s a good thing that I have it because I can put the money into it now, and once I get older I have a lot more money in that account. What I got from today is that what you do in this point of your life, can have a really great effect on the one farther down the road.

Did you know that the major difference between banks and credit unions is that banks are for profit while credit unions are non-profit?

Did you know that Georgia's Own was founded in 1934 by a group of telephone employees with an initial investment of $160?

Did you know that you can open a Georgia's Own checking account at the age of 15 with a minimum amount of $5?

I guess the best thing about today was not the ride in the limo, the pizza and soda for lunch, or winning fun prizes. The best thing about today was knowing that I was covered, and Georgia’s Own Credit Union has my back whenever I need them. I don’t know about you, but that fact takes a lot of stress off of me and my future.

Thank you Mr. Dave Preter, Kelly Garmon, Mr. Will and all of the Georgia's Own staff for making today an enrich filled day for my Ambassador brothers and I.

Mackenzi Stewart
Age 11