Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tradition begins with the established date

University of Georgia football has been played since 1892.  Today was my first first experience watching the DAWGS play live at Sanford Stadium.  My wife and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary in the cold with over 90,000 fans.

We started the morning with breakfast in Athens at Momma Boy's then headed to the stadium for the DAWG Walk Tradition.

As I sat in the stadium in awe, I began to think about the tradition of the university and how thousands of people have ties to the school for generations.  I also noticed the corporate support of the DAWGS that make them beyond a "local college football team".  The Bulldogs are a national brand.

My wife was born in Atlanta but raised in Athens so today was sort of a homecoming for her.  We established our family non-profit organization L.E.A.D., Inc. in 2007 to provide at-risk inner city Atlanta males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.  It is our vision to engage Atlanta based companies to help us to continue to increase the high school graduation rate of African-American males from the current 34%.  To date, 100% of our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have graduated from high school while they all enroll in college with over 90% of receiving college scholarship opportunities.

L.E.A.D. can't improve 100% but we can serve more students.  L.E.A.D. currently serves 350 students annually with year round programming.  UGA serves about the same number of student athletes with it's year round programming as well.

One day, we will have the financial support of Chick-fil-A, Georgia Power, Delta, Home Depot, and State Farm.  Until then, we will continue our tradition of excellence in the inner city of Atlanta with the partnership of Atlanta Public Schools.

When L.E.A.D. wins, Atlanta wins!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Heyward's mentor thankful for chance to LEAD

His name is C.J. Stewart, and he is appreciative of so many things during this time of thanksgiving. For one, he ranks among the primary individuals who helped "L.E.A.D." Atlanta Braves Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward to the Major Leagues.
Then there is everything else.
Let's start with "everything else," here to read more.

By Terence Moore

What a day!

What a perfect day. My daughters woke me up with laughter and my wife is still her beautiful self. The first thing on my mind as I realize that I'm alive to see another day is thank you Lord. God granted me life today to serve others.

I've been passionate about serving others since I can remember. I enjoyed opening the doors for people as a kid and got great pleasure out of hearing people tell me thank you.

My purpose on earth is to serve others. I'm passionate about it. It's what keeps me going when I'm reaching physical and mental fatigue. People counting on me feels way better than hitting home runs in my Chicago Cubs uniform.

Do you remember what happened on this day November 20th last year? L.E.A.D. officially announced our 18 Ambassadors to the City of Atlanta. This young men are students within the Atlanta Public School System and confessed change agents. Like me, they aren't perfect but they ain't afraid of excellence.

They face an uphill battle everyday in their communities due to high crime rates and low graduation rates among African-American males. But on November 20th 2012, Councilman Julian Bond declared November 20th through perpetuity as CJ Stewart and L.E.A.D. Day on behalf of the citizens of Atlanta. C'mon man! We have our own day recognizing our commitment to excellence in academics, athletics, service and exposure. Impact is so important to L.E.A.D. that we measure it.

L.E.A.D. provides the City of Atlanta with over 2,500 hours of service annually and we would like for you to join us. Click here to join our Tailgate Club.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I am a household guardian

Words can't express how proud I am to carry the Stewart last name.  Stewart means "household guardian".  As far as I know, my Stewart family name goes back to my great grandmother Annie Mae Stewart who made Jackson, GA (Butts County) her home.  I remember all of the family reunions as a kid going to the "country".  I was one of "city boy" Stewart's.

My grandmother Elizabeth Dunn moved to Atlanta and raised the family with my grandfather Horace Dunn in the Pittsburgh Community of Atlanta near Turner Field.  My dad, uncles and aunts attended Atlanta Public Schools K-12.  They attended Gideons Elementary School, W.L. Parks Middle School and my dad graduated from Price High School.  My aunts and uncles graduated from J.E. Brown High School when the family moved to Beecher Street. Go Jaguars!

I was raised at Grove Park Elementary School (Atlanta Public Schools) grades 1-5 and was some of the best years of my life.  This was the school that my mother attended along with her brothers and sisters.  My success as a student was because of the constant involvement of my parents.  Grove Park always knew that they could count on my parents.  That legacy continues at Grove Park under the leadership of it's current principal Caitlin Sims.

As an adult and a proud Grove Park Elementary School alum, I now serve as the founder and CEO of L.E.A.D., Inc.  Our mission is to provide at-risk inner city Atlanta youth males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.  We currently serve over 250 youth in the Atlanta Public School System with year round baseball and youth development.  Click here to check out our IMPACT STATS!

On Friday, November 16th, my family was honored with dedication of the Stewart Family Center at Grove Park Elementary School.  This center is going to empower parents in the community.  With more parent involvement, students will continue to thrive.

I am so glad that my grandmother Elizabeth Dunn was able to see the dedication as she is beginning to have difficulties with her site.

My daughter Mackenna joined us with my niece Kortni who will be a third generation Stewart to attend Grove Park next year as a third grader.

Mackenna and Kortni Stewart with Grandma Dunn at Grove Park
Legacy is very important to me as well as having a good name.  A good name can bring about major change in communities.  Atlanta is my home and I am a guardian of this city!

Left to right: Mr. Dehussia-assistant principal; Marquez Jackson-cousin;  Nicole Stewart-sister; Kortni Stewart-niece; Mackenna Stewart-daughter; Kelli Stewart-wife; CJ Stewart; Caitlin Sims-Principal; Gail Stewart-mother; Willie Stewart-father; Elizabeth Dunn-grandmother (seated)

Monday, November 12, 2012

When there is sunlight and water, there is always growth

The 2013 class of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors were selected last week and this Saturday, they were all orientated by Ty Yokum who serves as the Training Manager for Chick-fil-A.  He is dynamic.  Our executive director Kelli Stewart completed the orientation and had everyone's attention.

Excellence is one of L.E.A.D.'s core values so it only makes sense that we get the support of Ty Yokum to prepare our Ambassadors for another year of service to the City of Atlanta.  He started the orientation by giving the Ambassadors an opportunity to share their stories with each other.  Successful teams are built based on trust.  There is no way that I can trust you unless I know you.

Ty Yokum orientating the 2013 class of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors 
Our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors precept is "I am proud to be a creation of God and I thankful for this opportunity to be a L.E.A.D. Ambassador.  I am my brothers keeper and together we will achieve greatness."

There are only 25 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors but they are empowered to serve hundreds within their schools and that was the point of the orientation.  As we build our Ambassadors, they will build others and inner city Atlanta will change.

Coach Kelli shared an awesome illustration showing our Ambassadors how they are are a plant.  Unfortunately, their culture can influence them and cause them to wither.  L.E.A.D. is fortunate to partner with our families to replant our Ambassadors so that they can receive more sunlight and water so that they can grow.  L.E.A.D. is a culture of excellence, humility, teamwork, stewardship, loyalty, and integrity.  We are fortunate have amazing families on our side.  It truly takes a village to raise a child.

Coach Kelli orientating the 2013 class of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors
Make no mistake about it, you are a part of their growth as well.  You are the sunlight and the water that we need to feed the dreams of our Ambassadors.  Click here to join us for L.E.A.D. Weekend at Turner Field and be a part of helping our Ambassadors grow.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We all have a story. What's yours?

I have a story to tell and you have a story to tell.  We all matter and have a story to share.  When is the last time that you have had the opportunity  to tell your story?

My life hasn't been perfect and there may be more negative moments than positive if I could press rewind.  Often times, I wouldn't share my story for fear that I would be judged.

Many people across the country know about the great work that we are doing in the city of Atlanta through L.E.A.D.  Many of you have watched us grow from 2007 when our goal was to only offer free baseball clinics throughout the inner city of Atlanta to now offering year round programming serving over 250 young men in the Atlanta Public School System (APS).  Before L.E.A.D., baseball never existed at the middle school level in APS.  We have now graduated 33 Ambassadors from high school and they have all enrolled in college.  In 2014, we will have our first college graduating class.  Click here to check out our impact stats.

In order for us to make this type of impact, it requires support.  Many people ask me how I am able to get so many people to help us achieve our mission for L.E.A.D. such as Georgia's Own Credit Union, Chick-fil-ABelk, Atlanta Braves, Kim King Foundation, and many others. The answer is me being willing to share my story to people who care to listen.  In that lies God's will being done.  Here is a snapshot of my story.

The youth living in the inner city Atlanta zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318 grow up to represent 80% of the Georgia State Prison population.  The zip code 30314 is the 5th most dangerous community in America.  These statistics tell a story but each one of the youth living in these zip codes have a story to tell and often times don't get to tell it to people that care to listen.  They all have dreams and I thank God that I am in a position to help them achieve them.

Yesterday, I got a chance to tell my story to 11 men and one woman at our Annual L.E.A.D. Coaches Workshop.  We weren't discussing how to swing a bat.  We were discussing ways of creating memorable experiences for every young man that wears the L.E.A.D. emblem.

Ty Yokum (Chick-fil-A) facilitating our annual L.E.A.D. Coaches Workshop
We had coaches in attendance from our eight APS partner middle schools (King, Parks, Sylvan Hills, B.E.S.T., Harper-Archer, Brown, Young and Kennedy) and the workshop was facilitated by Ty Yokum who serves as the Training Manager of Chick-fil-A.  The workshop started with a video of people sharing their stories inside of a Chick-fil-A restaurant.  I was so moved by the video.  There was a lady sitting in a booth alone drinking coffee.  Her husband died a month prior and they would have shared their 50th anniversary that day.  There was a young and energetic girl bouncing around the story whose mother died when she was giving birth to her and now her father blames her for her mothers death.  With all of that, it is still the responsibility of the Chick-fil-A employees to treat each customer with respect because we all have a story.  I often go to Chick-fil-A just to feel good.  To be cheered up because they are one of the best in the business of providing memorable experiences.

I heard the stories of all of my coaches as well as my wife in the room and it was powerful.  I have been around many of them for years and never knew their story.  It is almost impossible to achieve a mission without knowing the stories of those that are fighting for change with you.

More than ever, our coaches will make the time to hear the stories of the young men that we serve.  Only 34% of African-American males graduate from high school within Atlanta Public Schools but they have a story to tell and L.E.A.D. is going to listen.  In order to make change, we have to spend less time talking and more time listening to our youth.

A movement was started yesterday.  Stay tuned.  Click here to join the L.E.A.D. team.