FOR ME, when my iPhone alarm sounds at 6AM, I’m ready for a new day. I have a purpose. . . what I believe to be a God given purpose. It is to do whatever is necessary to help Atlanta Public Schools (APS) realize its vision and fulfill its mission, to ensure that young black male students in the APS system have every opportunity to graduate from high school, go to college, and have career choices to live a life of significance.
Vision “A high performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system.”
Mission “With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career.”
FOR APS, when 6AM rolls around on any given day students, teachers and stakeholders are met with critical issues resulting from an educational system that has been grossly mismanaged. The state of APS is not just an Atlanta problem, it affects the entire State of Georgia.
POVERTY, GRADUATION RATES, AND INCARCERATION
· 80% of the 51,000+ students APS services live at or below the poverty level.
· Sixty percent of black males attending APS high schools either won’t graduate on time or at all
· Youth from inner city Atlanta zip codes that are served by APS, grow up to represent 80% of the Georgia Prison population.
· Georgia ranks number one in America in incarceration and America ranks number one in the world in incarceration.
· In Atlanta, if you are born into poverty you have a 4% chance of making it out.
It’s not hard to see that we are indeed in a crisis situation. We continue to lose far too many young, black boys and men via the cradle to prison/cemetery pipeline. As a Black man who grew up in Atlanta, the state of my City is always on my heart and keeps me up a lot of nights. Even still, my faith in God gives me confidence that my determination to work His plan in my life will yield benefits for all of Atlanta’s citizens, and we will finally come to realize the true promise for young, Black males – a sustained life of significance.
|L.E.A.D. Ambassadors serving with Lt. Col. Rooker and the APS JROTC for the Empty Stocking Fund|
To that end, I am sounding the alarm for a new day in APS. We must wake up as concerned citizens of Atlanta, and work consistently and diligently each day with purpose for the right results. I offer L.E.A.D. as a viable solution . . . tried and true . . . getting consistent results that are already benefitting the City.
Through L.E.A.D., Kelli, myself, our board and a host of supporters have built a positive culture amongst Black boys in APS; a culture built on dreams that some call crazy due to what they see as lofty ideals. Ideals such as viewing the Black boys in APS as viable candidates to run some of this City’s high profile companies. Crazy as it may seem, based on our experience over the last 8 years, we have confidence in our methodology and we’re seeing it yield results for APS and its students.
Here are a few ways that L.E.A.D. is empowering APS students and teachers:
L.E.A.D. AD CONNECT – On Thursday, October 22nd at 6:00AM, my alarm went off and I suited up in my red and black. Not just because those are Ambassador colors, but because we were headed to my wife’s hometown, Athens, Georgia, to spend quality time with members of the University of Georgia’s Athletic Staff. Through our AD Connect Program, we are empowering APS Athletic Directors (ADs) and coaches by leveraging relationships we have at the college level. In addition to providing a closer look into the operations of college athletics, we are helping the ADs and coaches meet their annual continuing education requirement. Ultimately, L.E.A.D.’s AD Connect Program demonstrates the District’s desire to develop quality ADs and coaches who will mentor APS student-athletes. That morning, 10 ADs and coaches traveled with me to Athens for a dose of empowerment courtesy of the amazing UGA Department of Athletics under the leadership of Director of Athletics, Greg McGarity.
|Atlanta Public Schools Middle and High School AD’s – Some of Atlanta’s finest people.|
In addition to UGA, the L.E.A.D. AD Connect Program collaborates with Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Mercer. Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State were the first two schools to come aboard.
SAFE AT HOME – The first, annual Safe at Home® Game was played on the first Saturday in August this year at Georgia Tech and it was a huge success! It was the final activity of the Safe at Home program – a collaborative effort of L.E.A.D., APIVEO and the Atlanta Police Foundation designed to build rapport between Atlanta’s inner city youth and Atlanta’s Cops.
Safe at Home was created as a response to the growing tension between the Black community and police officers that has resulted in death and violence in many inner-cities across the country. We have been extremely fortunate to not have a Ferguson like incident in Atlanta and Kelli and I wanted to be as proactive as possible to help ensure we never have one.
As part of the program, L.E.A.D. Ambassadors and Atlanta Police Officers got the opportunity to interact on a level playing field, through joint practices, a picnic and a Braves outing. As a result, the officers saw the Ambassadors as potential leaders, with purpose, and hope for a better future. Additionally, the Ambassadors connected with the police officers and gained a better understanding of the dangerous situations they face each day. Each party saw the human side of the other.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. was considered crazy by many to believe that blacks would be able to live in prosperity in America, but he had a core group who believed in the work he did. They worked tirelessly to help him realize his dream. Some think, that Kelli and I are crazy to believe that, through L.E.A.D., we can empower an at-risk generation of young, black males from the inner city of Atlanta to lead and transform their city of Atlanta, and eventually the world. Like Dr. King, we have countless amounts of friends around the world that we count on to pray for us, to hold us accountable for fulfilling our calling by God as well as challenge us to do more than we believe that we’re capable of accomplishing.
Dr. King cut a nice trail for our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors to finish paving, so that millions can travel on it living a sustainable life of significance.
So, every morning my iPhone alarm goes off at 6am. When it does, I have a few choices, I can:
- wake up feeling blessed that it’s a new day to serve, get going and produce results;
- hit snooze, buy a few more minutes, then get going;
- or, stay in bed, pull the covers closer, and do nothing.
Listen. Can you hear that? It’s 6:00AM and APS’s alarm is sounding loud and clear. What are your plans to help APS realize its potential and provide for a bright promising future for its students?