Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ready to lead Atlanta. My R.Y.L.A. experience.

C.J. Stewart: What does RYLA stand for?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: RYLA stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Award

C.J. Stewart: What is the mission of Rotary?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: The RYLA program is conducted on the district level by Rotarians to provide young people of their communities an opportunity to take part in developing qualities of leadership and good citizenship.

C.J. Stewart: Describe the trip with one word.

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: Exposure

C.J. Stewart: What surprised you the most about the trip?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: What surprised me the most about the trip was how the campers and counselors were so nice? Everybody got along at camp; it was like no one was ever mad.

C.J. Stewart: Who was the most interesting person that you met on the trip and why?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: The most interesting person I met on the trip was Camper Bull, our speaker. He told us how life growing up was for him. He has made a big influence on me to keep going in life. Camper Bull grew up as a dyslexic kid. A lot of people told him that he would not make it to high school or even graduate. But his mom stuck by his side and they did exercises to help him with his reading.

C.J. Stewart: What was the most interesting thing that you did on the trip and what did you learn from it?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: The most interesting thing I did on the trip was standing out from the crowd as a caring person. I was known as the person to lift up my teammates. I was very happy that I represented the Atlanta West End in a good way at R.Y.L.A.

C.J. Stewart: How was the food on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being terrible?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: The food was a 7 on the scale of 1-10.

C.J. Stewart: Who was the most attractive girl there?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: There were a lot of attractive girls there, but one girl on the purple team (whose name I can’t remember) was the most attractive girl on the trip.

C.J. Stewart: What are the top three leadership skills that you learned while you were there?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: Trust, Loyalty, and Teamwork.

Leadership exercise with Jeremiah at the bottom right
C.J. Stewart: Based on what you learned about RYLA, would you consider becoming a Rotarian? If yes, why would you like to become a Rotarian? If no, why would you not want to become a Rotarian?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: Based on RYLA I can see myself becoming a Rotarian because you are changing lives as a Rotarian. For example the Atlanta West End Rotary Club donated the money so I could attend this camp for free, and it has changed my life.

C.J. Stewart: Would you recommend that your peers attend RYLA? If yes, what are the top three reasons that you recommend it? If no, what are the top three reasons that you don't recommend it?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: Yes, I recommend that my peers attend RYLA because they would learn so much and would be able to go back to their city and share what they have learned.

1. You will learn how to trust people more.

2. You will meet new people that are awesome.

3. You will have a lot of fun.

C.J. Stewart: How does RYLA help you fulfill L.E.A.D.'s mission of empowering an at risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: RYLA has helped me fulfill L.E.A.D.'s mission because I have been through activities and exercises that have improved my leadership skills and strengthened my core values: Excellence, Humility, Integrity, Loyalty, Stewardship, and Teamwork.

C.J. Stewart: How does RYLA help you to be a productive student-athlete at Maynard Jackson High School?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: As a student, RYLA has taught me how to approach and treat my teachers and how to be very responsible in and out of school.

As an athlete, RYLA has taught me how to trust my teammates through thick and thin. They have also taught me to stay committed.

C.J. Stewart: What college would you like to attend and what degree would you like to receive?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: I would like to attend Savannah State University. I would like to receive a degree in Sports and Fitness Management.

C.J. Stewart: What career path would you like to pursue after college?

Ambassador Jeremiah Williams: I have plenty of ideas to pursue after college such as having my own batting cages and having a job that I love (not hate). Whatever I choose, I hope to make it the best for me so I can make a lot of money and give back to my family and L.E.A.D. like they are doing for me now.

Jeremiah is an outfielder and catcher at Maynard Jackson High School, Atlanta Public Schools

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Leading Atlanta just got easier for L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassador Savian McIntyre

My good friend Zach Klein (WSB Sports Anchor) stepped up big time today for the city of Atlanta by allowing L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassador Savian McIntyre (B.E.S.T. Academy, Atlanta Public Schools) an exclusive tour of WSB TV along with his father Tony Newsome, grandmother, sister, brother and teacher/baseball coach Bakari Moore (B.E.S.T. Academy).

I interviewed Savian after the tour and I am convinced that he learned a lot and will fulfill L.E.A.D.'s mission to empower an at risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta.

C.J. Stewart: Where did you tour today and who gave you the tour?

Savian: Today I toured the WSB TV studio with Mr. Zach Klein.

C.J. Stewart: What was the most impressive part of the tour?

Savian: The most impressive part about the tour was learning about the operation of the sound check and editing videos. I want to become a computer engineer. The tour helped me gain a better understanding of technology.

C.J. Stewart: What surprised you the most about the tour?

Savian: What surprised me most about the tour was the back stage setup of the studio.

C.J. Stewart: What career would you like to pursue in addition to baseball?

Savian: The career that I would like to pursue in addition to baseball is being an engineer designing electronics for the future.

C.J. Stewart: How does the tour help you fulfill L.E.A.D.'s mission of empowering an at risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta?

Savian: The tour gave me a higher level of confidence and I think I can lead the city of Atlanta as the owner of a computer engineering company called Savian Technology World.

C.J. Stewart: How would you describe Zach Klein with one word?

Savian: I best describe Mr. Zack Klein with two words - dedicated and informative.

C.J. Stewart: When you become a millionaire, how much of it would you give to Atlanta Public Schools and what are the top 3 things that you would want the money to be used for?

Savian: When I become a millionaire, I will give Atlanta Public Schools 20 million dollars. The 3 things that we will need are new computers from my company, teacher training, more books and other supplies.

C.J. Stewart: Describe the tour with 1 word?

Savian: I described the tour as amazing because I didn't realize it took that many people working in the background in order to present the news daily.

Monday, June 16, 2014

American Explorers Feedback Day #4

You can do anything...what do you want to feel? 
-Luke O'Neill (American Explorers Executive Director)

As a child, all the adults would tell us students that we could be whatever we wanted to be and then they would recommend careers such engineering, law and medicine.

I never connected to those fields.  My heart was never in those fields so I never pursued them despite the feeling that I was letting people down for not becoming one of the "Big 3".

CJ Stewart at Base Camp
As a child and young adult, my heart rested in playing baseball for the Chicago Cubs and serving others.  In addition to leading my family well, leading youth gets a lot of my heart and soul.

Luke and I had the discussion this week in Montana about people being able to do anything in life and the importance of doing what makes you feel good at the soul level.  Life is too short to neglect happiness.

American Explorers is not a camp.  It is 20 days of leadership development for 20 students from Atlanta in the mountains of Montana.  In July, another 10 students will travel from Atlanta, joining 10 young men and women from right here in Montana.

I asked 5 American Explorers students what they want to feel in life.

I want to feel like I'm changing other peoples lives. 
TJ Pittman (North Atlanta High School)

TJ Pittman
I want to feel like I can accomplish something in my life time. 
-Kami Boone (Henry W. Grady High School)

Kamryn Boone
I want to feel like I'm making a change in the world and positively changing other people lives. 
-Kalveion Heard (Booker T. Washington High School)

Kalveion Heard

I want to feel enjoyment in whatever it is that I am trying to accomplish. 
-Cameron Giles (Benjamin E. Mays High School)

Cameron Giles
I want to feel happiness. Happiness meaning the ability to smile without faking it. To be satisfied with my life and finally let go of my past and live a better future. 
-Re'Nae Dillard (KIPP Atlanta Collegiate)

Re'Nae Dillard

Sunday, June 15, 2014

American Explorers Feedback Day #3

It's too cold to complain so...

The energy used to complain can also be used by students here to participate in an activity they may not do in Atlanta. It was another cold morning and the girls made me warm by watching them play soccer while the boys were playing a rhythmic "foot game" of sorts. Scary thing is that when some teenagers get bored, they do stupid stuff. You have to be resourceful in the Montana mountains when you don't have a phone and TV. Everyone is getting along well here. 17 more days to go and we are all becoming more effective leaders. 

Challenge by choice

Challenge by choice begs each person to be intentional with their engagement here at American Explorers. There are many opportunities to learn about yourself and others through conversations and activities. American Explorers Program Director, Zack Terakedis, simply asks that everyone make the choice to be challenged and do it with the right attitude. It also empowers the students to participate at a level that forces them to expand their comfort zones. 

I need you

American Explorers Executive Director, Luke O'Neill, makes this statement a lot. It is a very powerful statement that if you receive it, you become a great teammate. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) needs this statement to permeate throughout the district. American Explorers is developing the leadership skills of several of APS's young minds here in Montana. Life just doesn't work if you don't have intentional and empowering people in your life.


Stop doing stuff and be happy

Some people go to school so that they can accomplish a lot in life. It's cool to have a nice car, house and job and it's even more amazing to be "happy". This American Explorers opportunity gives each student the opportunity to understand what makes them happy and the ability to craft their personal mission, vision and goals for life. You learn how to win at the game of life here. 

Significance is a hike and not a sprint

To get from A to B here on the American Explorers ranch is a hike. Even the driveway is a 4 mile hike to the base camp. There is no way that you can be lazy here. Life has ups and downs and rigid roads. You have to stay on them though to reach your destination. It also helps to have a trusty compass because in life and hiking, if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

American Explorers Feedback Day #2

Are you in need of anything?

You hear that a lot around here. This American Explorers team of experts and educators consist of intentional individuals that are committed to developing our 20 students from Atlanta. Everybody works together so well. The mission is very clear to serve here. If you don't enjoy serving others, you will be found out and removed quickly I'm sure. 

Developing workforce

There are 20 students here on the ranch and they are American Explorers and I would hire each of them as full time employees right now if they didn't haven't go back to school in August. American Explorers Executive Director Luke O'Neill agrees with me on the future of the students. Luke and I have agreed to fight over who's going to hire them. It would be a fight worth fighting.

Not a blank stare

Arthur Blank visited with the students today and I had an opportunity to speak with him. What I discovered is that he is a really intentional man when it comes to empowering others. I see it and feel it and I trust my intuition. It is so important for the students here to understand that they are philanthropists now in their own right. They also have the potential to serve millions with millions like Arthur one day as well. This man is way more than the owner of the Atlanta Falcons. He believes in these 20 students that we call American Explorers.

No TV....only learning, reading and writing

I couldn't watch a Heat/Spurs game if I wanted to because I have yet to see a TV. I have done some good Bible study, reading John Maxwell, learning about wildlife and the lives of others. You are really able to lock in on life here at American Explorers. We all have to take a pause to find out who we are the things that should be important to us. The American Explorers had a great scavenger hunt today on the ranch. They found a lot of stuff on the list and they are also finding themselves here as well. 

You eat and sleep to learn

Eating and sleeping isn't done as a formality here. Your teammates are counting on you to bring energy everyday. The energy of the 20 American Explorers can literally light up a room. They know why they are here. There is something new to do and learn each day and it is difficult to do when people are tired because they were up all night. It's also difficult to do if you are on a chips and soda diet. I haven't seen a soda yet. Drinking tons of water my friend.

Friday, June 13, 2014

American Explorers Feedback Day #1

It was a little bit scary flying into Montana with the strong draft coming from underneath the plane from the mountains. Thank God for great Delta planes with experienced pilots.

An hour away from Bozeman Airport in Montana is the home of American Explorers thanks to the generosity and intentionality of Arthur Blank.

Twenty students from metro Atlanta schools will be living with and loving nature for 20 days in Montana. Even the dirt road driveway is 4+ miles long surrounded by trees, peaceful creeks and deer.

This is my Day 1 blog and let me share with you the 5 things I have learned today so that I can get some much needed sleep for tomorrow.

Experts are here

Luke O'Neill serves as the executive director of American Explorers and his calling in life is navigating folks through the wilderness and ensuring that they capture lessons for life like perseverance, patience and peace to name a few. Arthur Blank didn't just select a beginner off the streets to run this 20 day program y'all.

Great individuals make great teams

Success is always until the end of time based on the actions of people. There are some great people on this American Explorers team that are serving 20 of Atlanta's assets. I was talking with American Explorers Educator Mark Davidson at dinner tonight and he said something that made me take a pause. "We don't make a lot but we live a lot."

Intentional with everything

Dinner was amazing but prior to that, the students were asked to establish a culture for eating. The do's and don'ts. We could have 
just sat down and eaten the food because everyone was hungry but it was important for everyone to be on the same page on how we will respect this time of fellowship with a meal that will provide the needed nourishment for days and miles of hiking. 

Leaders are allowed to lead

This isn't a camp. This is a place where leaders will practice leadership for 20 days. They will be stretched like never before. The old saying is true that practice makes permanent. The 20 students here will leave with some permanent habits for sure that they will be able to practice back in Atlanta.

No trash

You can't find a single piece of trash on the ground. This might be the only place on earth for that to be true. There is a lot of pride and respect on these grounds by the people that walk them. I love it. If you don't have people intentionally throwing trash on the ground, nobody has to bear the burden of picking it up after a disrespectful person.
Thank you Arthur Blank for establishing American Explorers as a catalyst for character change in Atlanta through youth of Atlanta.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tim Hudson is loyal. Are you?

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Vernard Kennedy: How do you define loyalty?

Tim Hudson: Loyalty is when you have faith in someone that you believe in. You should show your loyalty to people who are good role models and people who you believe in such as coaches, parents, teachers, family members and even teammates. Faith and commitment to one another are key components of loyalty.

Ambassador Vernard Kennedy reading to a young man at Sheltering Arms Early Learning and Resource Center

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Vernard Kennedy: Give an example when you had to show loyalty?

Tim Hudson: I show loyalty towards my children and wife regardless of the situations. I also show loyalty towards our family foundation because people are counting on us to help them.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Vernard Kennedy: Why is loyalty important to you?

Tim Hudson: Loyalty is a must have in any relationship. Loyalty is the foundation to relationships with coaches, teammates and family members. If you don't have loyalty and trust between one another then you don't have a good relationship.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Vernard Kennedy: How do you respond when someone isn't being loyal to you?

Tim Hudson: One thing to do is just pull that person aside and tell him what's he's doing wrong in relation to loyalty and do not embarrass him; talk to him with respect. True friends talk to and help one another, even when it's difficult.

Tim Hudson was attendance for our 2011 L.E.A.D. Celebrity Clinic at Turner Field

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

5-Star Experience for L.E.A.D. at LakePoint Sports Complex

The L.E.A.D. Jr. Ambassadors team played at LakePoint Sports Complex for the first time today and it was a memorable experience. Four turf fields with great baseball being played on them.

There are three things that you must have when you enter their gates.


LakePoint Sports Complex is the home of Perfect Game and they attract more than your neighborhood rival teams. The start to a successful college and/or professional baseball career begins at Perfect Game tournaments for several players. This complex is the best in the world and the talent on the field compliments it. We played Miami Select today and they were impressive. We only gave up 9 runs on 2 errors and 3 walks today. The experience was well worth the financial investment for over 18 young men from Atlanta Public Schools that are using baseball as a "ticket out."

Click here for Jr. Ambassadors action at LakePoint


I view any money spent here as an investment. It feels like home to me. Perfect Game has helped L.E.A.D. graduate inner city Atlanta black males from high school while launching them into college opportunities since 2007. This isn't your standard $200 weekend tournament. The old saying is that "you get what you pay for." We received 5-star treatment today.


The design of this place was well thought out. I particular like the scout towers allowing all of the fields to be visible for hundreds of MLB and college scouts. Baseball isn't played for recreation here at all. Parking was great. The location off the exit is so convenient. We were also a relatively short drive from our Booker T. Washington High School home field near the Georgia Dome. We experienced a 30 minute rain delay and literally got on the field within 15 minutes after the rain stopped. That's crazy!

Now I want our baseball field turfed at Booker T. Washington High School. It can happen.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I'm more like a master chef

The first pitch is at noon and 2:30PM on Tuesday's and Thursday each week for our Jr. Ambassadors (grades 6th-8th) this summer at Booker T. Washington High School (Atlanta Public Schools) but the next game actually starts after each game played.

Developing the raw baseball talent of inner city Atlanta African-American males requires vision, intuition, patience and persistence to name a few.

To be clear, I view "raw" as a good thing. Take a raw potato for instance. A master chef can do a lot with a raw potato. He can't do much with potatoes that are already mashed except to serve them.

I've never been afraid of raw talent because I am a master chef. That doesn't mean that I don't shake my head in disbelief after they do some things on the baseball field that I have never seen before.

My vision is simple. L.E.A.D. is empowering an at risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta so that our Ambassadors can lead their city to lead the world. Our Ambassadors don't have to play in the majors. However I do expect one of them to be a U.S. Senator by 2040. One of our current U.S. Senators representing the state of Georgia is Johnny Isakson who is an Atlanta Public School alum.

Intuition is a must have skill while developing raw baseball talent. I plan for the best each day while expecting the worst until I can get them further along with necessary things like arriving on time and being engaged while at practice. These are the skills that matter the most for their lives beyond baseball. They love baseball and I use the game 12 months per year to help them develop these skills.

L.E.A.D. has helped me develop so much patience. I avoided working with raw talent for years prior to L.E.A.D. because I didn't have the patience for it. This is hard stuff. It seems like I'm coaching everything from picking up trash to respecting others to wearing your uniform the right way to not using profanity on the field. Constant reminders to make eye contact and on and on. If I don't do it, it doesn't get done. I'm blessed to have several of our college Ambassador alums here this summer help me coach the Jr. Ambassadors along with the help of our high school Ambassadors.

When the going gets tough, I have to keep going. The year 2040 is coming quick and the fertile ground has to be tilled now. I'm not crazy and I'm not wrong for pouring into these precious young men. As we carry out our programming at Booker T. Washington High School, I'm reminded of the selfless work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who is a Washington High School alum.

I know why a lot people quit on children in the inner city of Atlanta. Because we don't know where to begin with them. That's another blog but now it is 12:30AM and I must say good night because we have another game in less than 12 hours and I'm 
coaching coaches to coach the Ambassadors to coach the Jr. Ambassadors. Gotta love it!