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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.