Friday, April 26, 2013

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Jason Gresham leading the way

Is it most effective to lead from the front of the line or from the back? I would say both. If you lead from the front, you can spot the danger ahead and reroute your followers. When you lead from the back, you give the followers more of an opportunity to become leaders like you. 

L.E.A.D.'s mission is to create positive outcomes for at risk minority inner city youth males by leveraging the relationship between education, athletics and service. Our four pillars of excellence include athletics (baseball), academics, exposure, as well as service/civic engagement. 

Due to unfortunate social issues, 60% of Atlanta Public School black males will not graduate from high school. We are a proud recognized partner of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and to date 100% of our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have graduated from high school and enrolled into college. 90% have enrolled into college with baseball scholarship opportunities. 

I'm proud to say the least of this accomplishment. It is a "village" effort to reach this success. Let me share something else that has made me proud. On Tuesday, May 22nd, L.E.A.D. Ambassador Jason Gresham was recognized as one of 2013 11Alive Salutes Kids Who Care. Jason is a junior at the New Schools at Carver (APS). He is a catcher and outfielder with the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors. 

Jason Gresham is at the far right and featured with Donna Lowry and the 2013 11Alive Kids Who Care
Since 1987, 11Alive and the Junior League of Atlanta have recognized the unselfish contributions of young people who dedicate themselves to making our community a better place.

L.E.A.D. offers year round programming to over 250 APS middle and high school students. Their dedication is measured monthly with their attendance to school, grades, behavior and community service. 

Jason is no stranger to service. He started with us as an 8th grade LEADer at Walter L. Parks Middle School (APS). He has matriculated to become an 11th grade L.E.A.D. Ambassador who has already collected over 200 total hours of community service. Hundreds of middle school youth count on the year round mentorship of Jason in our L.E.A.D. Middle School Character Development League.

L.E.A.D. Middle School Character Development League photo at the GA Tech baseball field on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Photo by Cortney McArhur (

Monday, April 22, 2013

Excellence - By Guest Blogger Bill McLellan (L.E.A.D. Board Chairman)

L.E.A.D.'s Elementary School Character Development Series

Excellence – the quality of being outstanding or superior

In my experience, those who have reached a level of excellence have several things in common. Check out my list below and see if you possess some or all of these attributes.
  1. If you want to achieve excellence in anything, start with a simple decision and a belief that you can do it, so you must trust in yourself and in your abilities. Think “I Can”.  Make this decision for yourself right now. 
  2. To achieve excellence, do what you love, something for which you have a true passion.  
  3. Don't get discouraged when you are not great at something right away. Nobody is excellent at anything the first time they try to do it.  
  4. To achieve excellence, you must keep trying and push pass failures and setbacks; you must keep going. 
  5. To achieve excellence, you must set goals, and WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN.  Goals must also be put on a calendar, or be achievable within a specific timeframe.  A goal without a date is a wish. 
  6. To achieve excellence, seek expert advice from qualified sources (some call this feedback or networking). Surround yourself with other excellent people so you can ask them for guidance and support while you are working to reach your goals. 
  7. To achieve excellence, ALWAYS give your best effort EVERY TIME. There are many things out of your control, but two things you can ALWAYS CONTROL are your ATTITUDE and your EFFORT
  8. Lastly, if you want to achieve excellence, then never stop trying to get better.  Even after you get pretty good at something, you must still try to get better. 
How will you know when you've reached excellence? You will know when you reach your goals; that's why it's important to set goals. The goals that you set must be S.M.A.R.T. For your homework, research what S.M.A.R.T. goals are and report back to Coach CJ when you find out. 


Bill McLellan
 (I'm the tallest guy in the photo)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We need a helicopter for days like this

Yesterday was just flat out fun. My day started with my weekly Skype mentoring session with all of the 3rd, 4th and 5th males at W. J. Scott Elementary School (Atlanta Public Schools)

Weekly Skype session with 3rd-5th grade male students at Bethune Elementary School (Atlanta Public Schools)

In March 2013, L.E.A.D. launched an Elementary School Character Development Series that includes blogs from me with a different character word each month. Our character word for April is excellence. We currently have four Atlanta Public Elementary Schools in the Character Development Series program. 

After my Skype session, my wife Kelli and our L.E.A.D. Executive Board Chairman Bill McLellan and I met with Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz at Turner Field. He is an amazing man who cares about all children in this state. His wisdom and experience is going to take me to new levels. Here is a quote that he shared with us yesterday. "Winners make commitments. Losers make excuses."

From left to right: CJ Stewart (L.E.A.D. Co-Founder), John Schuerholz, and Kelli Stewart (L.E.A.D.  Co-Founder/Executive Director)
Afterwards, we drove less than 10 miles from Turner Field to Benjamin E. Mays High School to receive the 1st Annual Atlanta Public Schools Office of Athletics Community Service Award. Now that was cool! I am a product of Atlanta Public Schools so this meant a lot to me to be recognized. This was the Atlanta Public Schools Department of Athletics 5th Annual Calvin "Monk" Jones Lecture Series and 2013 Coca-Cola Scholar Athlete Awards featuring Ryan Stewart. APS is a great place for education and sports. 

Left to Right: Rendell Jackson (APS Athletics-Middle Schools), CJ Stewart (L.E.A.D. Co-Founder), Jeff Beggs (APS Athletic Director), Jasper Jewell (APS Athletics-High Schools), Sam Crenshaw (WXIA), Kelli Stewart (L.E.A.D. Executive Director)
I hot-footed to Maynard Jackson High School to spend some weekly mentoring time with our 5 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors that attend that particular school. We currently have 25 Ambassadors from various Atlanta Public High Schools. Pouring into them is worth the time. They have been chosen to lead. With consistent exposure to the history of past legends of Atlanta, interaction with current leaders of the city, maturation and life changing experiences, these Ambassadors will be key influencers in their school and Atlanta community. Make no mistake about it, this is all by design from L.E.A.D.

We capped off the night by collaborating with Georgia Tech Athletics to host 160+ LEADers from our L.E.A.D. Middle School Baseball Character Development League for our 4th Annual Hats Off event. The LEADers were empowered by guest speakers such as Wayne Hogan (GA Tech Associate Athletic Director), Shane Kimbrough (Atlanta native, The Lovett School graduate, West Point/GA Tech grad and NASA Astronaut), Roddy Jones (former standout GA Tech running back and outfielder). Click the short video below to hear from Astronaut Shane.

The LEADers from Brown Middle School got a special treat when they were able to tour the late Kim King football locker room with his daughter Angela King. L.E.A.D. loves Angela and the commitment to excellence of the Kim King Foundation serving youth in West End Atlanta. 

Angela King with one of the Brown Middle School LEADers
We walked from the GA Tech Athletic Center to the baseball field as a group and watched the GA Tech baseball team host the Savannah State University Tigers. Interestingly enough, Savannah State has three L.E.A.D. Ambassadors alums on their current roster Mendez Elder (Grady High School), Joseph McCrary (Redan High School) and Jason Wynn (Clarkston High School). Ambassadors McCrary and Wynn will be a part of L.E.A.D.'s first college graduation class in 2013. 

Hats Off to GA Tech, Wayne Hogan, Lauren Scherer (Director of Sales and Fan Experience, GA Tech), Jeff Gilbert (Director of Game Operations, GA Tech), Rendell Jackson (APS Office of Athletics-Middle School), Louise Plagman, Tony Plagman (former GA Tech student/athlete, Detroit Tigers), Shane Kimbrough, Roddy Jones, Angela King, Terrance Mays (Architect, Harris + Smith), Gavin McGinnis (Turner), Mary Jo Walker, Courtney Lapolla, David Seeney (Fresh Behavior), Cortney McArthur (Born To Compete), Barbara Greene, Kerwin Giles (L.E.A.D. Middle School Director), Crystal Giles, Bill McLellan, Kelli Stewart (L.E.A.D. Executive Director), Robert Stephens, James Walker III (Walker and Associates), Zion Walker, Mackenzi Stewart, Mackenna Stewart, D.J. Huyck, L.E.A.D. Coaches Sedrick Parker (Sylvan Hills), Sam Brooks (Sylvan Hills MS), Kevin Young (Martin Luther King MS), D'Wayne Carter (W. L. Parks MS), Harold House (Jean Childs Young MS), Malcolm Shell (Charles Harper-Samuel Archer MS), Harry Moss (Joseph Brown MS), and Brandon Johnson (John F. Kennedy MS).

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lebron James wins championship while you score excellent on the CRCT

L.E.A.D.'s Elementary School Character Development Series

Lebron James might be the best basketball player in the world. He is excellent in so many ways. Being excellent is going the "Second Mile". Here are 3 reasons why he is such an excellent role model. 

Lebron James and the Miami Heat are the 2012 NBA Champions
1. Lebron prepares to win. Preparing to win NBA championships includes making sacrifices before you play the game. His diet is really strict and doesn't allow for him to drink sodas or eat candy. Think about taking the CRCT as being your NBA championship game. Eating good and being well rested makes you feel good and perform well. 

LeBron James working out
2. Lebron James makes his teammates better. The best players always make others around them better. Even Batman needed Robin. When you are excellent in all that you do, you also have the opportunity to make others excellent also. And when a team of you are excellent, you are the most powerful. You are a champion. Make your school excellent by making high scores on the CRCT.

Lebron James and teammate D-Wade
3. Lebron James studies. Lebron has to study his shooting mechanics for hours in addition to physically practicing his shot in the gym. His games are televised and he is able to look at the video to understand why he is succeeding and failing. That extra work allows him to perform at a high level. This is why you have to study hard for everything that you do. What happens when you plant a seed and don't water it?

What are three excellent things that your teachers can list about you?




Click this video to find out 3 excellent things that my teachers said about me when I was a Grove Park Elementary School student.

Here is a great video from Mr. Rob to get you ready for the CRCT. Get your dancing shoes on!

"Narrate the positive script for your future and you are the star character."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Week 6 of the MSCDL from Coach Kerwin Giles

Monday April 1

I attended practice and a community project at Young Middle School. The LEADers began their practice picking up trash around their entire campus. They split into groups and left the grounds looking nice. We later began practice and I worked with the outfielders working on receiving fly balls and ground balls.

Saturday April 6

On a wonderful Saturday for baseball, our day got started with Parks vs. Sylvan. Parks jumped out to an early 5-1 lead on their way to a final 12-1 victory. The win was sparked by the Mustangs bats and some very good defense. Our LEADers from Sylvan could not get anything going and it showed a little in their body language, yet another moment to learn from the great game of baseball.

Our second game had King vs. Brown. This may have been the shocker of the year so far with King pouring runs to a total of 16 for a 16-0 victory. The Dolphins from Brown couldn't get anything going, which has not been the case up until this point. I had a short pre-game talk with the LEADers from King about commitment and they responded by going out and playing their most complete game so far this season. Despite the one-sided score, our LEADers from Brown never got down on one another and I never once saw any negative attitudes during the game. 

We next featured Harper-Archer vs. Young. Harper-Archer jumped out to a 9-0 lead and held it until the 3rd inning when Young woke up to come back and tie it and later go on for the 12-11 come from behind victory. This game had many ups and downs for both teams and was played hard right to the end. The LEADers from Harper-Archer continue to make strides and while very upset to lose this game, they showed great passion and heart in the defeat.

Due to rain on Friday, Kennedy vs. B.E.S.T. was moved to our last game of the day. Kennedy is another team that has made tremedous strides and it all came together in this game. Although coming up short 8-2, the Rattlers gained a lot of confidence with their improving play. B.E.S.T. continues to show why they are the team to beat with good pitching and defense and timly hitting.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Extraordinarily Excellent

L.E.A.D. Elementary School Character Development Series

The difference between extraordinary and ordinary is being willing to do extra. The thought of being ordinary isn't good for me because I was created to be a leader and serve others. My last name Stewart is a Scottish surname that means "household guardian". What does your last name mean?

I refuse to live as an ordinary being. It wouldn't feel right. I can always do extra. No matter what job I work at, I'm going to be extraordinary. If I'm picking up trash for a living, I will be the best at it. If I'm teaching kids how to play baseball, I'm going to be the best at it.

L.E.A.D. Co-founder CJ Stewart receiving a Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs March 2013
There were so many opportunities for me to be the best while I was a young student at Grove Park Elementary School (Atlanta Public Schools) and in my Northwest Atlanta neighborhood. I had perfect attendance kindergarten through 12th grade which made it easier to get excellent grades. I had good behavior in school which allowed my teachers to recommend me for fun and enriching activities that still benefit me now as an adult. My church members at Elizabeth Baptist Church could also count on me every week to serve on the usher board, choir and Boy Scouts. I served my inner city Atlanta community with excellence then and I continue to do the same thing now through my non-profit youth development organization L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). Our mission it to provide inner city Atlanta at-risk youth males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.

What 5 things can you do extra this week at school and in your community to be extraordinarily excellent?






"Narrate the positive script for your future and you are the star character."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Jackie Robinson, 42 and You

Yesterday evening, my wife Kelli Stewart and I were guests of the Atlanta Braves for the private screening of the Jackie Robinson documentary "42".  The movie viewing was sponsored by Atlanta based marketing company Liquid Soul.

The evening started with a reception at Strip Restaurant.  I had an opportunity to spend some time with Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz as well as see some familiar faces of individuals connected with revitalizing baseball in the Atlanta African-American community.

My wife Kelli Stewart and I at Atlantic Station in Atlanta for the 42 movie. (Photo by Isha Edwards , EPIC Measures)
At the movie theater, we were greeted by several young baseball players.  It was really cool to have them there for this occasion.

The movie itself was nothing short of amazing. Check out the trailer.

In 1984 at the age of 8, all that I ever wanted to do was play professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs.  I would watch the Cubs games on WGN with my grandfather while drinking Coke in the day time and watch the Braves on TBS at night.  The Cubs had the better team so I cheered for the Cubs.

Achieving my dream seemed really simple because nobody ever told me that it was too hard.  Little did I know that prior to 1947, playing Major League Baseball for someone who looked like me was impossible. Branch Rickey (Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager) gave Jackie Robinson the opportunity to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Major Leagues in 1947 and thus he opened the door for myself and thousands of other African-American baseball players to achieve our dream of playing professionally.  Prior to playing for the Chicago Cubs, I was a student/athlete (baseball) at Georgia State University.

The movie really brought to life the horrific stories that I have heard about regarding the state of America prior to the Civil Rights Movement. This movie is more than baseball. It showed Mr. Robinson as a loving husband and father, a caring teammate and a change agent for civil and human rights in America. He basically paved the way for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Jackie Robinson is the gold standard for serving others. My wife Kelli Stewart and I are co-founders of an Atlanta based non-profit organization L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) that provides inner city Atlanta at-risk youth males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.

Prior to playing Major League Baseball, Mr. Robinson was a graduate of UCLA. L.E.A.D.'s focus is to increase the number of African-Americans playing in the NCAA. There are currently less than 6% of African-Americans competing in baseball at the NCAA level. Since L.E.A.D.'s inception in 2007, 100% of our Ambassadors have graduated from high school while 100% have enrolled in college and 90% have enrolled with baseball scholarship opportunities. Graduating from college gives our Ambassadors an opportunity to work in the front office of the Atlanta Braves with Mr. John Schuerholz.

L.E.A.D. is a proud partner of Atlanta Public Schools (APS). It is important for us to partner with APS because I am a proud product of Atlanta Public Schools like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Booker T. Washington High School) as well as my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. But did you know that 60% of Atlanta Public Schools African-American males will not graduate from high school?

Thank you Mr. Robinson for leading the way. This movie will educate millions and serve as a call to action to help youth use baseball as a means to develop life skills. Without baseball, I wouldn't be the loyal and loving husband, father, son and servant leader that I am today.

What are some ways that you can help increase the number of African-Americans in your city that are using baseball to access college?

If more African-Americans males are graduating from college, how will that impact our country?

What is your connection to baseball? When was it introduced to you?