Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rhythm of Life - Who I Serve


A rhythm is a strong, regularly repeated pattern of movement. Songs with good rhythm makes us feel good and dance. Good music inspires.

Life is like music. There's music that inspires us to love deeper, think differently and understand others. Good music moves you.

I must admit that I'm that guy that bobs my head to music and often times not even knowing the lyrics. I have music on my iPhone that gets me in the mood spiritually, mentally and emotionally. My positive mood allows me to move positively.
Is there a rhythm to life? Things that must happen in a strong, regularly repeated pattern in order for each of us to live out our purpose?

Our hearts must beat to a rhythm. If not, poor health, even death, can be near. Animals communicate with a rhythm of sounds to protect themselves. Winds create a rhythmic pattern of water movement called waves.


I believe that most of exist on earth without being aware of our rhythm of life. As hip-hop artist Cee-Lo Green stated so eloquently: We're alive but we ain't living.

In order to have a good rhythm of life, one that blesses and empowers us personally (self, family) so that we can do the same corporately (community, world), there must be boundaries that help us serve as good stewards over what has been entrusted to us. This year, instead of creating New Years resolutions, I am focusing on creating and maintaining a good rhythm for my life.


I've spoken to several people that suggested five boundaries that create a good rhythm of life: spiritual, mission driven, mental, emotional, physical and relational.

Spiritual-Who I Serve

I am a follower of Christ who believes that the Holy Spirit lives in me serving as my conscience.

There are many religions and I respect everyone's right to serve the deity of their choice. I'm sure that we can agree that regardless of who or what you serve, you must have a conscience in order to function well with other humans.

Ask yourself: How do you connect with your spiritual self each day?

A Benefit of being spiritually fulfilled: When you are spiritually fulfilled, you become accountable to something greater than you. That accountability can help you make the best decisions.

Risk of not being spiritually fulfilled: Destruction to yourself and others.

Do this: List 3 ways you can connect spiritually on a daily basis

Sunday, December 28, 2014

As a leader, this is what I learned from the Falcons this season


Watching this debacle of an Atlanta Falcons game has me giving thought to the cause of losing seasons by organizations. 

Here are three reasons why teams lose often.

Poor leadership


Everything rises and falls on leadership and I mean everything. Effective leaders establish the mission and vision of the organization. They also represent the culture of the organization.

Winning cultures must have standards and accountability.

As the CEO of L.E.A.D., I am charged to establish what our wins and loses are as an organization in the short and long term. If we lose repeatedly as an organization, I will no longer be the leader.

Click here to see L.E.A.D.'s scoreboard.

On set for ESPN's E:60

Poor strategic plan

Strategic is a game changing word. We can create any plan of any type off the top of our head. If a plan is strategic, it aims to win. I can't think of anyone that plans to fail. In order to win, there will be loses and those loses better move us towards the big win.

Strategic planning can be complicated because lots of questions must be asked and answered with the right people at the table over many days and long nights. Preferably, the people at the table need to have experience winning. If not, your strategic plan could end in failure.

Lack of talent

If you are fortunate to have the right leader in place with a strategic plan, you better have talent if you want to win.

The strategic plan determines who you bring on the team. Every willing and able person can't join the team if they don't have the skills to help the team achieve it's mission and vision.

In 2015, Kelli Stewart and I are planning to add some amazing talent to our team of L.E.A.D. in order to continue to serve Atlanta families in an amazing way.

Reality check

The reality however is that all teams say that they want to win because that have to. Actions speak louder than words. And for good measure, talk is cheap and anybody can afford it.

L.E.A.D.'s mission is to empower an at risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. L.E.A.D.'s vision is for our Ambassadors to lead their city of Atlanta to lead the world.

L.E.A.D. Weekend 2014 at Turner Field

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

They are gifts to the world


In a world with so many technological advances that allow us to move through life with ease, it's relatively easy to forget about the most precious asset we have here on Earth: each other. Human capital is by far any organization's most important line item on its financial statements, whether those in charge want to accept it or not.

Within L.E.A.D., the young men we serve in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools are without a doubt the most important part of our organization. Our 12-month programming solely focuses on developing them across four pillars: academics, athletics, civic responsibility and commerce. Through these pillars, we are able to develop young men who society has counted out into Ambassadors who not only want to succeed for themselves, but also for the betterment of the community and world.

The Christmas season by far has become one of the most selfish times of the year. In an effort to help my Ambassadors focus on something other than the gifts they want, I asked a few of them to to tell me how they are gifts to the world. The responses that follow aren't scripted; they are what happens when you begin to change hearts and not just minds.


L.E.A.D. Co-founder C.J. Stewart
L.E.A.D. Ambassador Jalen Cannon (B.E.S.T. Academy): I'm a gift to the world because I plan to help make the world a better place.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Byron Brinkley (Charles Drew Charter High School): I'm a gift to the world because I am determined and will do what is necessary to make this world a better place.


L.E.A.D. Ambassador Byron Brinkley
L.E.A.D. Ambassador D'Angelo Julio (South Atlanta High School): I'm a gift to the world because I will make history that benefits the world.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Tyquavious Noland (Maynard Jackson High School): I'm a gift to the world because I'm accountable to my family, L.E.A.D. and success.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Tyquavious Noland
L.E.A.D. Ambassador Ryan Martin (Benjamin E. Mays High School): I'm a gift to the world because I add value to my community and my school through leadership.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

We prayed and we marched because it works


This afternoon, I had the pleasure of marching to seek peace for the city of Atlanta and the country along with my fellow members of Elizabeth Baptist Church (EBC).

Dr. Craig L. Oliver led over 834 Elizabeth Baptist Church members for a 3.5 mile March from our Atlanta location. Along the march we had several pastors from our church praying for peace for our city of Atlanta as well as our country.



I was fortunate to march in the rear along with my wife Kelli Stewart, daughters (Mackenzi and Mackenna) as well as a few of our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors.



God bless Dr. Oliver for his vision and leadership.

Marching worked successfully "back in the day" and can work now also when it is done intentionally. Everyone that knows about Elizabeth Baptist Church knows that we are intentional.


With so much chaos in our country, there is plenty to pray about while marching.

As a dedicated member of EBC, I vow to continue to serve Atlanta with excellence through L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct).

Thank you EBC for your vision, modeling of excellence, prayers and continued support of L.E.A.D.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why and how I fight for productivity


I've always had high aspirations and standards for myself yet being unproductive looms over me because I'm human. Awareness, accountability and action help me be productive.
 

When I'm productive, I learn well. When I'm productive, I serve well. When I'm productive, I love well.

Awareness
 

We all have blind spots, and the best way to counter being unproductive is to be aware of them. The blind spots that prevent me from being productive are arrogance, stubbornness and failure to actively listen.
 

Accountability
 

Without having people in your life that you can trust, you will never be productive. I keep trusted people around me that will hold me accountable. They often tell me what I don't want to hear, but I trust them. They want me to be productive because when I am, I can learn well, serve well and love well.
 
Action
 

Sometimes I get so focused on being perfect that I fail to get started. Being productive begins with getting started.


What prevents you from being productive?
 

What serves as a catalyst for your productive behavior?

###

Monday, December 1, 2014

Have we reached 1st round draft pick status yet?

If you are an Atlanta Falcons fan, let's face it, this is not quite the season you had in mind. On paper, the Falcons have a lot of offensive weapons and you would assume that they could score enough points to win every Sunday. However, the reality is that the Falcons currently have a record of 5-7, mediocre at best. 

The City of Atlanta also looks good on paper as well, but we are tanking in a war that we can't afford to lose.

According to the Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta ranks third in the nation among cities with the most FORTUNE 500 Headquarters, according to the 2012 FORTUNE list. Since Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics, the city has consistently ranked in the top five cities with the most FORTUNE 500 Headquarters. Twenty-six metro Atlanta headquartered companies placed among the latest FORTUNE 1,000, of which thirteen are among the FORTUNE 500. Fourteen FORTUNE 1,000 companies headquartered in metro Atlanta ranked higher on the FORTUNE list than in 2011. Metro Atlanta’s headquartered FORTUNE 1,000 companies generated aggregate revenues of $321.2 billion, of which 90 percent was attributed to the FORTUNE 500.




With all of that said, Georgia ranks at the bottom in America in education, while America ranks at the bottom in the world. 

Georgia ranks number one in America for incarceration, while America ranks number one in the world.

Atlanta Public Schools serves 50,000+ students K-12 while 80% of those students live at or below the poverty level and 60% of black males don't graduate from high school (at all or on time). In addition, 80% of Georgia's Prison population consists of youth from inner-city Atlanta zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318. One more thing, Georgia leads America with the most non-profits per state. Excuse my sarcasm here - how badly do we need to fail our children in order to get people to the table whose sole agenda is the empowerment of our children?


Members of the 2014-2015 Ambassador Class w/ Mike Hobbs (Partner, Troutman Sanders)

If we're willing to be transparent, we all have agendas in Atlanta, including me. My agenda through L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) is to empower an at risk generation to lead and transform their City of Atlanta. As we continue to be successful as an organization, our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors will lead Atlanta to lead the world.

We have a lot of people in Atlanta doing a lot of great things while black males continue to drop out of high school and go to jail. How can this be?

Atlanta has earned the title 'the City too busy to hate'. Unfortunately, we also seem to be the City too busy to support and scale programs that are actually on the ground floor, in the trenches and getting results. 

Like the new Georgia Dome coming out of the ground on the Vine City horizon - it's time to Rise Up. 

For children this time and not just for profit.

Click here to check out L.E.A.D.'s impact stats.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I'm thankful


Everyday is a day of thanksgiving. I especially enjoy celebrating the holiday Thanksgiving because it causes a pause in the world so that Jesus can get the spotlight.

I'm most thankful today for being a follower of Christ as well as having a sound mind and health. It is truly an honor and privilege to be the husband of an amazing wife Kelli Stewart as well as being the father of Mackenzi and Mackenna Stewart.


I thank God for my parents, grandparents, siblings, additional family members, love ones and friends.

Thank you God for allowing me to be born and raised in a country that allows me to freely speak your name.

I'm thankful that I can lead Atlanta with the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors as well as your support.

Thank you Jesus for your continued mercy and grace.

Amen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The common denominator


In a quest to be the most effective leader I can be, I intentionally surround myself with heroes. Sergeant Edward "Sonny" Fincher is a hero and here's why.

Sonny Fincher, A.K.A. Sarge, is a 64-year-old white male who was raised in poverty in the inner city of Macon, GA. He dropped out of high school, entered the draft and served in the Vietnam War. The military presented a framework for success that Sarge had never been a part of before. With the new opportunities that were ahead of him, he earned his high school diploma in addition to advanced degrees and enjoyed a rewarding career in the military.

Fast forward post military career.

Sarge became a leader in the Athens, GA community by way of the JROTC program at Cedar Shoals High School. He has developed hundreds of impactful leaders. It's my pleasure to highlight three leaders who call Sarge "Dad".

Kelli Stewart is the executive director of L.E.A.D., Inc. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), an Atlanta based, Pathway2Empowerment, non-profit organization that serves up to 500 Black middle and high school aged males in the Atlanta Public School System. Click here to see the impact of L.E.A.D.

Marieo Foster is Chief of the Law Enforcement Division for the Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Service to country is the common thread that binds all who are remembered and honored at Arlington. In addition, Marieo has served as a Federal Air Marshal and in various leadership roles within the Department of Defense and The Pentagon. 

Edrick Smith is a warrant officer for the United States Navy.

All of these individuals faced unfortunate challenges on their journey through childhood to adulthood. Challenges that were much more serious than who they were going to take to prom or where they were going for spring break. These challenges often threatened their very survival. So how were they able to overcome and break through their circumstances? What was the common denominator to these individuals' success? Or better yet, who? 

Sergeant Fincher. 

Left to right: Kelli Stewart, CJ Stewart Marieo Foster, and Sarge
When I asked Sarge how he changed the lives of so many young people, he gave me these absolutes: love, care and chastening. Through these absolutes he was able to impart confidence, earn respect and thus be a person of influence and significance in the lives of hundreds of students. 

As I sat in the Fincher home today and listened to Marieo and Kelli tell stories about their journey with Sarge, and how his influence still guides and empowers them to this day, I felt like I was listening to children recall stories about their father. 

And indeed, I was.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

22 things that Jason will leave in Atlanta


L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) was established in 2007 by my wife Kelli Stewart and I. That was also the same year that the Atlanta Braves drafted Jason Heyward in the 1st round of the Major League Baseball Draft from Henry County High School.


I have had the pleasure of serving as Jason Heyward's personal hitting coach since he was 13 years of age through my for profit business Diamond Directors. Our short term goal at that time was for him to be drafted by the Atlanta Braves with the long term goal of becoming an impact player and maintaining that status for the Atlanta Braves at the Major League level.

On Monday, November 17th, 2014, Jason was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals from the Atlanta Braves. As his friend, I'm always praying to God to provide the best opportunities for Jason and I know God to be in control. As his hitting coach, I'm excited for him to play on a team that will bring out all of his God given talent. Millions of people including myself are constantly inspired by his consistent character and work ethic.



L.E.A.D.'s Celebrity Clinic 2011
Jason served Atlanta with excellence for five great years on the field at the Major League level wearing the Atlanta Braves logo on his work hat and #22 on the back of his jersey. He also served inner city Atlanta youth in a world class way through L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). L.E.A.D.'s mission is to empower an at risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. L.E.A.D.'s vision is for our Ambassadors to lead their city of Atlanta to lead the world. Click here to check out our impact stats. L.E.A.D. is a proud partner of Atlanta Public Schools.


Here is a list of 22 things that L.E.A.D. learned from Jason Heyward while he was a member of the Atlanta Braves.

1. Honor God with your talent.

2. Show respect even when you feel that it isn't deserved.

3. Give a maximum effort.

4. Show up on time and ready to work.

5. Be humble.



6. Be confident.

L.E.A.D.'s Celebrity Clinic 2014 at Turner Field
7. Be a good teammate.

8. Make sacrifices.

9. Think before you speak.

10. Think before you act.

11. Overcome adversity.

12. Admit when you are wrong.

13. Achieve excellence.

14. Rise to the occasion.

L.E.A.D.'s Dinner With Champions 2014 recognizing the new class of Ambassadors
15. Handle failure with dignity.

16. Share the spotlight.

17. Be prepared.

18. Trust yourself.

L.E.A.D. Ambassadors attend Atlanta Public Schools
19. Show integrity even when it's not convenient.

20. Have fun.

21. Serve others well and be intentional when doing so.

22. Never quit because it gets easier to quit each time you do so.

Jason is 25 years of age and loves people as much as he loves the game of baseball. If it's God's will, his fans will have the opportunity to be inspired by him on and off the field for many years to come.

Jason Heyward addressing L.E.A.D. supporters about the importance of work ethic
Jason is more than a baseball player - he is a person who's life is governed by core values. Get ready St. Louis.

Click here to follow J-Hey on Twitter.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A new story told about black males in Atlanta


L.E.A.D. is telling a new story about black males within Atlanta Public Schools

Our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors dream about becoming a U.S. Senator. They dream about becoming business owners, husbands, fathers and philanthropists.

L.E.A.D. Weekend 2014 has come to an end and it was nothing short of well deserved celebrity status for our Ambassadors. Here's a snapshot of this past weekend's events. 



Friday, November 14


Over 300 elementary and middle school males and females from Atlanta Public Schools received a world class baseball experience from the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors, coaches from the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Georgia Tech and Georgia Highlands. As a student at Grove Park Elementary School, I dreamed of playing college and professional baseball, and that dream came true for me as a student-athlete at Georgia State University and as a professional player with the Chicago Cubs. It's a great feeling to know that lots of students may now have that 
same dream.



Kennesaw State University Athletic Director Vaughn Williams and KSU Assistant Coach Derek Simmons
After serving fellow students at Turner Field, it was time to make their Ambassador status official. 

You officially become a L.E.A.D. Ambassador when you receive your custom L.E.A.D. blazer from Miller Brothers. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was educated at Booker T. Washington High School and our Ambassadors put on their blazers for the first time at his alma mater.d

L.E.A.D. Ambassadors with Atlanta Public School Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan
Saturday, November 15

Dinner With Champions is L.E.A.D.'s opportunity to celebrate the individuals and companies that support L.E.A.D. Sam Crenshaw is a respected sports reporter and anchor for 11Alive News and served as our emcee. Hats off to David Dickey (680 The Fan) who received our Corporate Stewardship Award as well as our Community Partner Award Recipients Brian Jordan (Atlanta Braves/Atlanta Falcons) and Coe Bockmier (VP Rental Enterprise Holdings). Award winning national sports broadcaster John Kincade (680 The Fan, ESPN Radio) inspired us all as the keynote speaker. Sam and John also led an insightful and entertaining Q&A with the Ambassadors. The answers we need to help our youth are inside of them - we just have to ask. 


John Kincade
Sunday, November 16

My dreams of living a life of significance as a child were nurtured at Elizabeth Baptist Church. Today, the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors were recognized for their commitment of excellence to the city of Atlanta by Dr. Craig L. Oliver Sr.

L.E.A.D. Ambassadors with Dr. Craig L. Oliver at Elizabeth Baptist Church

I guarantee that you will look on the news tonight and see young black males involved with crime. You should also know that L.E.A.D. Ambassadors are being empowered to lead and transform this City - their City - our City. There is indeed a new story being told about black males in Atlanta and this one doesn't end at Wright Street. Will you help us tell this story? Visit www.lead2legacy.org to learn how you can help. 

Ambassadors signing autographs for students

Monday, November 10, 2014

Will they become homeowners or homeless?


Children don't dream of growing up to live a life of poverty and homelessness.

Atlanta Public School System currently serves 47,000 students and 80% of those students live at or below the poverty level. In addition, 60% of black males from Atlanta Public Schools fail to graduate on time or at all. Sadly but true, youth from zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318 grow up to represent 80% of the Georgia State Prison population.

L.E.A.D. serves middle to high school age black males from Atlanta Public Schools. Our mission is to empower an at risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. Click here to check out our impact.

L.E.A.D.'s Dinner With Champions 2012

Here are the reasons that our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors expressed as the causes of homelessness.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador TJ Pittman, North Atlanta High School

1. Job loss

2. Parent death

3. Failure to pay house bills

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Cameron Tucker, Grady High School

1. Lack of wise decision making

2. Excuses

3. Lack of drive/determination

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Cedric Reed, Georgia Highlands College

1. Laziness

2. Bad relationships

3. Lack of Discipline

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Ryan Martin, Benjamin E. Mays High School

1. Drugs and Addictions

2. Criminal history

3. Unemployment

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Jalen Cannon, B.E.S.T. Academy

1. Laziness

2. Being irresponsible

3. Lack of determination

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Austin Evans, New Schools at Carver

1. Poverty

2. Lack of opportunity to advance

3. Detrimental decisions

Are black males in Atlanta being raised to live a life of poverty homelessness?

Friday, November 7, 2014

I don't have to be right anymore


I have found so much peace in the last year of my life focusing on sharing my authentic feelings with people that I'm convinced care about me. Not sure how you feel about it but it is exhausting trying to be right all of the time about everything.

Listening actively is truly a gift that I don't have but I have a lot of people in my life that possess this skill. Rather than being right, I rather be heard. I want to share what's on my heart with people that care about me and above all people that I trust.

Trust is powerful to say the least. If I trust you, I can accept your advice and do something about it.

One of the main things that I love about sports is how everyone must depend on each other in order to win. As an athlete, I especially enjoyed the coach to player relationship. I love to learn and I always welcome opportunities to be coached by people that believe in me and want to see my grow.

If I can trust you, I will open my heart to you. If I'm wrong and you are right, that now makes me right.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

They are becoming legendary because they are L.E.A.D. Ambassadors


Your L.E.A.D. Ambassadors were announced on Saturday, November 1st and what a great first day.

7:00AM

We felt the chill of upper 30 degree weather at Booker T. Washington High School while 31 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors filled vans from our supporter Enterprise.

8:00AM

We stopped by to see Mr. Tommy at his famous barber shop. Thomas Barber Shop has been serving Atlanta in Buckhead for over 55 years. I've been getting my haircut at Tommy's for over three years now. Other men that get their haircut in the famous barbershop are Dan Reeves, Don Keough, James Cox Kennedy, Governor Nathan Deal and Larry Gellerstedt just to name a few. Tommy is full of wisdom, influence and concerned that 60% of black males aren't graduating from Atlanta Public Schools on time or at all.



8:45AM

We arrived at Miller Brothers in Buckhead for our annual fitting for custom L.E.A.D. blazers. Greg and Robby have invested in our Ambassadors for over seven years realizing that they are future leaders of Atlanta. Our Ambassadors play several competitive baseball games in their Mizuno uniforms and they also frequent many black tie functions throughout the year.



10:00AM

OK Cafe was our food choice of the day. I had the pleasure of meeting legendary Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins while in the restaurant. I shared our L.E.A.D. vision and results with him and he asked if he could spend some time in the near future with the Ambassadors. Of course the answer is yes. To become a legend, you must spend quality time with legends.

12:00PM

We are at Phipps Plaza for our second fitting of the day. Belk CEO Dave Penrod has been a fan and supporter of L.E.A.D. for over two years. For the second consecutive year, Dave has outfitted our Ambassadors with shoes, collard shirt, slacks and belt.



Our 5th Annual Dinner With Champions is Saturday, November 15th when we officially introduce our 31 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors to the city of Atlanta.

L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) is a proud partner of Atlanta Public Schools and our mission is to empower an at risk generation to lead and transform their city. Click here to check our impact stats. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Two Different Learning Institutions in Atlanta


L.E.A.D. Ambassador Jamequavius Jordan (Maynard H. Jackson High School, Atlanta Public Schools) spent a day with me today.

My day started with a meeting with Morehouse College President John Wilson followed by a Rotary meeting on the Georgia Tech campus.


Here are the three differences that Jamequavius learned today between Morehouse and Georgia Tech while being on both campuses.

1. Morehouse College has 2,000+ students and Georgia Tech has 20,000+ students.


2. Morehouse College is a historical private college and Georgia Tech is a historic public college.


3. Georgia Tech has a Walmart, Waffle House and hotel on the campus along with lots of buildings and a state of the art athletic facility. Morehouse College doesn't offer a lot on the campus. I guess it's because of the community that it is located in.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Engaging the Dragon


Last week I (Ryan Martin), along with Austin Evans, went to the Engaging the Dragon: Economic Diplomacy in China Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the World Affairs Council. We were able to listen and learn so much from our keynote speakers about China, conditions there, U.S. relations, and how the two nations could come together and be stronger. A special commentary from former President Jimmy Carter was broadcasted live via satellite from the Carter Presidential Library. This was special because Carter was the key figure involved in creating the relationship we have today with mainland China nearly 35 years ago.

Austin Evans (Senior, New Schools at Carver), Rachel Nelson-Flyod and Ryan Martin (Sophomore, B.E. Mays High School)
In addition to President Carter's insights, two keynote speakers that have accomplished unthinkable things in government and on different cultural platforms discussed their views on China's economic growth over the last two decades, U.S. competitiveness, and future relations between the two countries. Our first keynote speaker was Mr. Henry "Hank" Levine who is a Senior Director with the Albright Stonebridge Group, a strategic advisor firm in Washington, D.C., where he helps international firms deepen there interactions with government and non-government entities in China and resolve business issues. Our second keynote speaker for the night was Professor Andrew Wedeman. He is a Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University. He has spent eighteen years with the Department of Political Science at the University of Nebraska, where he served as Director of Asian Studies.

Being at the World Affairs Council meeting gave me the opportunity to understand exactly what the organization does and ponders over. The World Affairs Council of Atlanta provides a forum for dialogue and an entrance for research on international affairs and global issues that impact the corporate community. The mission of the Council is to deepen the understanding of world affairs, enhance the international reputation and help drive the economic development of Atlanta, the state, and the region.


I enjoyed being in an environment of college students and influential people from multiple cultures and societies. I saw this opportunity as a chance to further my knowledge of not only my culture but the cultures and economic structures of China. It was definitely a privilege and I am thankful to have been a part of it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Not Just Another Chicken Dinner


Georgia claims the crown for the state with the most non-profits in the country, so there will no doubt be hundreds of fundraising galas during the last quarter of this year.

There is another crown that I want Georgia, specifically Atlanta to claim: the City that graduates black male students at the highest rate in the country. So far with L.E.A.D., we're on the right track. To date, every young man that completes our program graduates from high school and enrolls into college and 92% of them receive scholarship money to help pay for college.

Now before you applaud those stats, let us all understand that in order to sustain those stats and to bring more young men into the fold, we must have sustainable support. This year, I need you to put L.E.A.D.'s 5th Annual Dinner With Champions on your calendar, so you can meet the young men we call Ambassadors; young men who were on track to be liabilities to this City, but who are now on track to be the assets they always had the promise to be.



Legendary Football Coach Vince Dooley along with the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors, Kelli Stewart and CJ Stewart at the Dinner With Champions
For those of you who like numbers, the problem is really simple. Right now, youth in zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318 grow up to represent 80% of Georgia's prison population. When it comes to juvenile expenditures for youth housed in Georgia's detention centers, it costs the State about $100K per child each year.

On the contrary, it costs L.E.A.D. about $21,000 per student over six years to develop young men into Ambassadors; that's about $3,500 per student each year. It comes down to paying now for proven prevention or paying later for incarceration and rehabilitation.

I hope you will join me this year to celebrate as we announce our 7th Ambassador Class. My hope is that you will also join others in supporting L.E.A.D. so we can sustain our work thus far and make L.E.A.D. available to more young men in Atlanta. The tickets are only $150; a small price to pay to save a life. Click here to purchase your tickets.

L.E.A.D. is a proud partner of Atlanta Public Schools serving student-athletes from the 6th-12th grades.

Monday, October 13, 2014

L.E.A.D. Fall College Tour - Savannah State University


This weekend, we took our Leaders on their second college tour of the fall to Savannah State University. There's no way to relay just how transformational this trip was for all of them unless you were there to witness it for yourself, but I hope these reflections will give you a glimpse on the amazing experience we had.



Keevis Montgomery, Benjamin E. Mays High School, Atlanta Public Schools

During my Savannah State University experience I learned that college teams prepare just like L.E.A.D. We saw Savannah State play East Georgia College on Saturday and I realized that even players at the college level make mistakes. I had a good time talking with my teammates from other APS schools. I learned some new stuff about them. I found out that one of my teammates just started playing baseball. I also learned some new facts about Savannah while on the trolly. Savannah is the most haunted city in America. I learned a lot on this trip and it was a great experience.

Cameron Tucker, Henry W. Grady High School, Atlanta Public Schools

I learned a lot on this Savannah trip. I learned the importance of establishing a better relationship with the team. I also learned the importance of calming myself and my teammates down on the field. During the game, I began to get upset because I had two strikeouts. After talking to Coach CJ, he explained it wasn't the end of the world, so I was able to focus on exposing my talent in front of the Savannah State coaches. This trip was worth the drive for more than baseball.

Nile Kennedy, Maynard H. Jackson High School, Atlanta Public Schools

I had an awesome time while in Savannah. I learned a lot just from watching the Savannah State game. I also learned from Mendez (2012 Ambassador Alum & Grady HS Graduate) when he gave us the motivational speech. In the future I will take what I learned and put it into action. But one thing I'm proud of myself is when I guaranteed Coach CJ that I wouldn't show negative emotion during the game. I'm terrible at keeping in my anger and not showing my emotion. When I made an error, I calmed myself down and stayed focused. I had to have a short term memory. I held it together and kept my cool. I got a chance to show my skills during the game and I gave my all. I also had a lot of fun during this trip and I want to thank Coach CJ and Coach Kelli for giving me this opportunity to be in Savannah. It really means a lot.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The ABC's of graduating from high school


Graduating from high school can be really easy for some and really difficult for others. For me, it was really easy because of the guidance from my mother, father, coaches, teachers and church family; I was able to follow the ABC's.

In my hometown of Atlanta, GA, 60% of black males will not graduate from high school on time or at all from Atlanta Public Schools (APS). L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) has partnered with APS since 2007 to change that story. Click here to check our success.

Attendance

I'm proud to say that I had perfect attendance from kindergarten through 12th grade. People ask me if I ever got sick and I don't remember being so sick that I couldn't go to school. My mom stayed on top of immature things that I would do to get sick like making sure that I got plenty of rest. Staying on the phone or hanging out with friends on a school night wasn't happening. We hardly ever had junk food in the house and I never skipped meals.
I spend a lot of time in a lot school cafeterias and I witness students not eating breakfast or lunch. Not eating properly and trying to perform well in school is like trying to drive from Atlanta to Miami with a gallon of gas. It ain't happening! In addition to breakfast and lunch, Atlanta Public Schools now has an amazing program called Supper On Site that provides dinner to APS students.

Behavior

I was fortunate to be educated by men and women who took the time to connect with me first before trying to lay down the rules, etc.

My mom and dad didn't spare the rod on discipline by any means. Neither did my relatives or coaches. It takes a village to raise a child and in my case that included discipline - expectations and consequences.

At school, my teachers knew what I valued and who I valued and they used that as a tool to effectively mentor me. 

Course study

As a child baseball was my favorite sport and the batting average was the golden standard to determine your ability. When I realized that grades at school worked the same way, I began to take education more seriously. My grades were a reflection of my character and I knew that I couldn't be successful at anything if I was average at best.

As the co-founder of L.E.A.D., a Pathway2Empowerment organization, we serve hundreds of male students that have academic struggles. We are committed to inspiring them by exposing them to what their futures can be; ultimately, the motivation must come from within.

"You can't even toast bread without being educated about how to do it." ~C.J. Stewart

When I was a student, the better my attendance and behavior, the higher my grades were. Sure there were times when I pressed the envelope and did immature things, but I had instinctive, committed educators who connected with me well enough to get me back in line - quickly. (Shout out to Ms. Annette Dotson who took no mess from no one. Period.)



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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Be mad without commitent or win with it


I've been fortunate to do and experience a lot of great things in my 38 years. One of the things that I struggled with the most as a young adult was commitment to excellence.

The simple definition of commit is to do or to perform. I failed in the area of commitment as a young adult due to a lack of maturation, attitude and discipline. Lacking the ability to commit caused madness for me.

Maturation

I had to finally get to a place where I was sick and tired of myself. Lazy was becoming very comfortable for me and preventing me from committing to great opportunities. Experience is a great teacher.

Attitude

I was raised by good parents and knew the difference between right and wrong at a very young age. I chose to have a bad attitude because it allowed me to get attention although for the wrong reasons.

Discipline

Discipline boils down to doing what what you should do but don't want to do. I didn't commit to a lot of positive things that I should have committed to because I lacked discipline. I also had a bag full of excuses to go along with it.

2012 Georgia's Trend Magazine 40 Under 40
As I have increased in age and grown grey hairs, I am proud to say that I am a committed man now. I am a fan of commitment now due to wisdom, integrity and nobility. By being committed, I'm a winner now.

Wisdom

I've messed up a lot and I've learned a lot. You have to go through some things to become a wise man. I can be committed to excellence now and it feels good.

Integrity

Integrity is all about doing the right even when you don't want to. I am a man of integrity now. Didn't say that I was perfect but I can now be committed to excellence without others being suspicious of me.

Noble

When character became important to me I was able to remove the mask of consistent negativity and become a better character. It's better to be considered as a noble man than an uncommitted child.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Seeds Sown, Ambassadors Grown


I truly feel that L.E.A.D. is doing God's will as an organization planted in Atlanta. It is evident in the fruit that we bear through young African-American males.

We have been serving Atlanta with excellence since 2007. Our mission remains the same, to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta. Our vision remains the same that our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors will lead their city of Atlanta to lead the world. We still accomplish this through a sport that is considered America's favorite pastime - baseball.


L.E.A.D. Ambassadors with Governor Nathan Deal
It is my desire that in 2040 a L.E.A.D. Ambassador will be elected as a U.S. Senator representing our state of Georgia. That is why it is of uttermost importance that our core values of excellence, humility, integrity, loyalty, stewardship and teamwork be upheld.

To be clear, L.E.A.D. scouts out the counted out. In case you haven't noticed, society has pretty much written you off. Why do I say that? I say that because we live in a time where it's more profitable to build prisons than to invest in schools. That's really sad, but you can change that and you're going to need my help. We don't go into schools and cherry pick the top all around students. All you need to have is a minimal desire to play baseball and a passion for living a life of significance.

The baseball field is where the Ambassadors practice their core values the most. Academic excellence for the Ambassadors should be a no brainer starting with excellent attendance and behavior in school. Civic responsibility is nurtured now to prepare Ambassadors to truly lead this city and leadership is all about influence - nothing more, nothing less. It's going to take financial resources to lead Atlanta and the Ambassadors will develop skills weekly that will prepare them to be gainfully employed when they graduate from college.

As we prepare for our fall Legacy League that will produce twenty five Ambassadors, here are three things that I'm most excited about.

1. Ambassadors will coach themselves


We will have sixty Leaders in the Legacy League competing for twenty five coveted Ambassadors slots. We will only have two coaches on staff by choice. Ambassadors know how to lead themselves as well as possess the ability to work with others. When core values are in place, learning to hit and throw a ball correctly to earn a college scholarship won't be difficult at all. Young men that lack core values will be removed quickly because we don't have time to force young men to value this once in a lifetime opportunity.


2. Ambassadors hold each other accountable

It's considered an innate action for youth coaches to yell and scream to get results from their players. With only two coaches on staff this fall, we're looking for Leaders who can hold each other accountable based on our standards and expectations. We don't have perfect kids in our program yet they all have an awareness of core values. From personal experience as a child, I can attest that when their is a lack of accountability, young men stop growing in the positive direction.

3. Ambassadors will lead their schools

L.E.A.D. will have twenty five Ambassadors within eight Atlanta Public Schools (APS) high schools in 2014-15. They will all be charged to lead their schools since we are training them weekly in character development. Their character development playbook will be Habitudes by Dr. Tim Elmore. This is the same character training that the San Francisco Giants, University of Alabama and University of Georgia use to name a few. L.E.A.D. is not a "good for you" organization so it is within the school buildings that our Ambassadors will be able to lead the way to show that L.E.A.D. is good for APS and good for Atlanta.



No need to tell me that you're in on this challenge. You must show me - your consistent, committed actions will tell me all I need to know about you.

I'm here scouting for Ambassadors- period.

Now let's go!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Well Done Mr. Truett Cathy


Well Done Mr. Truett Cathy.

Mr. Cathy was sent to Earth by God for 93 years to do His will. I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Cathy, but I have seen his tireless love and service to others for a long time.



Mr. Cathy passed last night, but he lived a fulfilled and purposeful life in the name of The Lord. I also want to live a purposeful life for The Lord.

I was giving some thought this morning about Mr. Cathy's life and discovered three things that he and I have in common:

Atlanta Public Schools Alum

Although Mr. Cathy was born in Eatonton, GA, he was raised in Techwood Homes and educated in Atlanta. Techwood Homes was eventually torn down due to the expansion of the Georgia Tech campus. He graduated from Boys High School which is now Henry W. Grady High School (Atlanta Public Schools).

I was born and raised in the inner city of Atlanta on Hollywood Road in Northwest Atlanta (Hollywood Courts) which less than 15 miles from where Techwood Homes once stood. I attended Grove Park Elementary School which is also an Atlanta Public Schools (APS).

APS has always been a school system that developed innovative leaders like Truett Cathy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Innovative

Mr. Cathy didn't invent chicken but he is known worldwide for creating the chicken sandwich. Chick-fil-A is a multi billion dollar company that not only serves delicious food, but also is respected for developing great leaders within its communities.

I didn't invent baseball. However, I created a methodology to convert the raw baseball talent of inner city African-American males into skills that are attractive to college baseball programs. Hundreds of elementary through high school aged African-American males in the inner city of Atlanta are positioned to graduate from high school (on time) and college and become gainfully employed because of L.E.A.D.

All things are possible through Christ Jesus.

Follower of Christ

Mr. Cathy lived by Christian values and built a billion dollar company with those same values. His legacy will no doubt live on through men and women who remain on Earth until we are also called to Glory.

I'm unashamed to be a follower of Christ. L.E.A.D. is an organization that is governed by ethics, morals, core values, standards and accountability.

Our time on Earth should be to do God's will by loving others and serving others. Mr. Cathy loved and served others well.

I can confidently say that his greeting in Heaven went as follows: 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.' (‭Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭23‬ ESV)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Future Hall Of Famers Among Us

On Tuesday, September 2nd, eight L.E.A.D. Ambassadors were guests of Major General Ronald L. Johnson (Two Stars) at the College Football Hall of Fame Dinner. The West Point Society of Atlanta hosted the dinner in celebration of the Hall of Fame's relocation to Atlanta and the West Point Academy's leadership role in founding the National Football Foundation, the parent of the College Football Hall of Fame.


A few of Atlanta's finest student-athletes visiting one of Atlanta's finest new establishment:
The College Football Hall of Fame.

The following is a reflection on their experience.

What guarantee can you make to the city of Atlanta after attending this event?

Ambassador Jacoby Evans: I will guarantee Atlanta that I will graduate from high school on time and go onto college to further succeed, with the help of scholarship money. I will have a successful career in accounting.

What was the most impressive thing that you saw tonight?

Ambassador Vernard Kennedy: One of the impressive things I saw was all the alumni that were committed to The Academy (The West Point Academy).

What is something that you saw tonight that you have never seen before?

Ambassador Derrick Walker: I've never seen two rivals get together, get along and enjoy one another. I guess they had one goal in mind: to protect and represent the USA.

What do Atlanta Public School Students (APS) students need to know about tonight's event?

Ambassador TJ Pittman: They need to know that the students who attend West Point Academy are very respected and that they are excellent role models. We can do the same too.

Describe how you feel about life after tonight's event?

Ambassador Emanuel Wilson: I feel that life is a blessing; just to be around some of the people I was around tonight was a blessing. This evening has shown me that life is all about connecting with other people - the right people. Life is hard, I say this because of the Generals that I saw with battle scars and scars that have changed them forever, but they found a way to overcome hard times. It was a blessing to be around them along with the Hall of Famers.

What's the best way to repay Major General Ronald Johnson for inviting us?

Ambassador Desmond Jones: Wow, this was a really great experience! He showed loyalty and stewardship by inviting us. Without him, we would've never been able to take advantage of a opportunity such as this. I think we should present him with an Ambassador ring for showing some of our core values.

Describe the College Football Hall Of Fame facility?

Ambassador Austin Evans: I describe the college football Hall of Fame facility as a place of great history and engulfed with school spirit. An experience like none other. It was an opportunity to tap into the history books and be amazed. The film was creative and mind blowing. I could feel the school spirit and emotion flowing through my body as I walked through the tour. It was honestly a night I will never forget.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Born to be great. It's not Godly to be mediocre.


It's not Godly to seek shelter in the womb of mediocrity but we often do it because we lack discipline, dedication and the ability to dream.

Discipline is simply doing what you ought to do even when you don't want to do it. There was a time in my life when being mediocre was acceptable. When I look back at that time of my life now, I realize that I had successfully surrounded myself with mediocre people. These people would never hold me accountable for being less than excellent because they would have been correcting themselves as well.

My favorite thing to do now to remain disciplined is to start my day with devotionals from Wisdom Hunters instead of checking my Facebook and emails.

Dedication is being committed to a task or mission. Guess what happens when you don't have a clear mission in life? You guessed correctly. You act mediocre and you spend your time with mediocre people doing mediocre things while complaining about it. I've been a less than dedicated person and I don't regret it because I now know what not to be. My mission in life is to be significant and to serve millions. God gave me my beautiful wife Kelli Stewart to help me accomplish this.


The Stewart's at the Annual L.E.A.D. Dinner With Champions Awards Celebration
My favorite thing to do now to remain dedicated is to serve black male students in Atlanta Public Schools through L.E.A.D. We develop Ambassadors that are empowered to lead their city of Atlanta to lead the world.

L.E.A.D. Ambassadors at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta
Dreaming is so much fun for me. God revealed so many great instructions to men in the Bible in the form of dreams and I feel that He does the same for me. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't have a plan for social equality, he had a dream. When you don't dream, you live a life of mediocrity and you find yourself surrounded by mediocre people and doing mediocre things.

My favorite thing to do now to remain a dreamer is to spend time weekly sharing my dreams with dream catchers. Dream catchers aren't quick to say what I can't do. They think it through with me and challenge me with questions so that I can decide whether to move forward to make it a reality.

God wants to do more for us, with us and through us if we allow Him.

L.E.A.D.'s Core Value for September is Excellence (which is not even in the same air space as mediocrity). 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bases Loaded


Don't give in to stereotypes:

A topic of discussion for the media every year is the decline of blacks in baseball. It's generally followed by "canned" reasons such as not having a dad at home or not having enough baseball fields in their communities.

I tell you what. If you have a few good men in your community, you can take 12 black middle school aged boys from the south side of Chicago and put them on ESPN for the world to see that black boys DO play baseball.




Show up and be present, and for Pete's sake (whoever he is) please stop being a part of the problem with all of the excuses. Remember, if an idiot tells you the same thing over and over again for a year- you'll eventually believe it.

In order to win the game, you must rely on more than having fun. Baseball is a game that requires a lot of critical thinking and quick adjustments. There are lots of momentum shifts in baseball and you must be mentally focused in order to overcome adversity.



The boys from Chicago came to win and they played with a lot of respect and character. Their character was tested like all of the other teams the entire tournament. That's what this game does- baseball exposes character, then develops it.

Don't give up:

America didn't lose the Little League World Series. The world saw that black boys do play baseball in America and they play with character and resilience.



These courageous young men and coaches from JRW did their part; the bases are loaded. Now what are you going to do?

#LetsGo
#llws2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Right Is Not White - It's Just Right


I've been a black male all 38 years of my life yet for most of my life I've been accused of "acting white" when I do what's right.

My parents raised me to respect others, say thank you and please. I still do those same things today because it's the right thing to do.

As a child, I was picked on for being polite and considerate of others because it wasn't the "cool thing" to do. I was also that kid at Grove Park Elementary School, Atlanta Public Schools with Vaseline on my face and IZOD shirts tucked into khaki pants that were firmly belted on my true waist. Let's just say that the teachers thought that I was handsome and my classmates called me lame. Before you feel sorry for me, know that I never had problems with bullies because I was a trendsetter.

During my school days, you were considered cool if you were loud and willing to physically fight every time somebody looked at you wrong.

That way of thinking was stupid in the 80's and 90's and is still stupid in 2014.

The reality is that I am still accused of "acting white" when I do what's right.


Hundreds of young men in the city of Atlanta have willingly submitted to growing up to do what's right. They aspire to live their lives governed by core values because it is ultimately the only way to live a life of peace.

In the meantime, they still get ridiculed for saying thank you and please.

I have four sentences of wisdom for anyone that is accused of "acting white" for doing what's right.

Put your trust in The Lord.

Continue to do what's right.

You lose when you do what's wrong.

Have mercy on your ridiculers, they'll need a job from you one day.