Through L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), I apply what I’ve learned as a black male growing up in one of Atlanta’s most dangerous housing projects, to empower young inner city black boys to choose a life different than what their environment dictates. Based on statistics*, these kids are counted out and end up living the inevitable cycle of cradle to grave poverty – with the likelihood of incarceration along the way. But, when they commit to L.E.A.D.’s program, they participate in opportunities with positive growth experiences to break the cycle. Safe at Home is one such opportunity that I could argue was years in the making. Here’s how I see it.
|C.J. Stewart, the L.E.A.D. Ambassadors, Brad Jubin of APIVEO as well as members of the Atlanta Police Department baseball team were presented at a recent Atlanta Braves game|
When I was coming up, I had a mentor, Officer TJ Wilson. He took me to see my first Georgia Tech baseball game when I was 14. I was hooked, so Officer Wilson made sure I got to see many more. All the while, I became obsessed with becoming a Yellow Jacket. When it came time to apply, the reality hit, I would never make it. Based on test scores, I wasn’t prepared for the academic rigor of Georgia Tech. I had graduated from Westlake High School’s Magnet Program with honors, but it wasn’t enough. In addition, I wouldn’t have been able to handle being the only black player on the team. I didn’t have relatable skills. I lived in a black only world, attended all black inner city schools, and my interaction with white ball players was minimal.
I did not, however, let non-admittance to Georgia Tech’s baseball program deter me from my goal of playing professionally with the Chicago Cubs. My dream was realized, but it was brief. I didn’t have the fortitude to compete at that level. Upon returning to Atlanta, I regrouped and started Diamond Directors, a for-profit baseball player development concern; but, the Chicago Cubs experience, and all that led up to it, tugged at me.
My wife, Kelli, and I established L.E.A.D., a non-profit organization to create positive outcomes for at-risk, minority and inner city youth by leveraging the relationship between education, athletics and service. The impetus for L.E.A.D. was a culmination of what I learned growing up as a black male in Atlanta’s inner city, which include the frustrations I encountered as well as the support I received from the community.
Through my work with L.E.A.D., I now have strong relationships with Georgia Tech’s athletic department and baseball coach, as well as some of its staff, professors and alumni. I also have solid partnerships with other organizations and corporations who fully understand and support L.E.A.D.’s mission, including the Atlanta Police Department, APIVEO and Zaxby’s.
The Safe at Home event is a collaborative effort of Georgia Tech, the Atlanta Police Department, APIVEO, Zaxby’s and L.E.A.D. It is made up of a series of “get-togethers”, and its mission is to foster respect between Atlanta’s inner city youth and cops, bolster positive perceptions of each toward the other, and raise the level of favorable nods these groups get from, and within, the community. It concludes with The Safe at Home baseball game between the two groups in their own backyard – where they live and work. The game is self-officiated and will be played at Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Baseball Stadium this Saturday, August 1, 2015 at 11am. Fan attendance is free. Come out, sit in the stands, and support L.E.A.D. Ambassadors and the Atlanta Police Department cops for taking a stand and showing what’s possible against all odds.
Click here to see L.E.A.D.’s Mid Year Highlight Video.
I am proud that L.E.A.D. is a partner of an uplifting event such as Safe at Home, and is able to offer it to its Ambassadors. Their participation in Safe at Home will expose them to the positive experiences necessary to continue to empower them to lead fulfilling lives.
|Pastor Dave Pridemore, founder of The Camp Grace will be joining us for the Safe at Home game|
*Statistics still show that:
· Youth from inner city Atlanta zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318 grow up to represent 80% of the Georgia Prison population.
· Georgia ranks number one in incarceration in America while America ranks number one in the world.
· Astoundingly, 60% of black males from Atlanta Public Schools will not graduate from high school on time or at all. Meanwhile, the state ranks at the bottom in education in America
Click here to check out L.E.A.D.’s 2nd Quarter eMagazine.