L.E.A.D.’s (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) mission is to empower at risk inner city young black males to become Atlanta’s leaders. Our experience is that a young black male without a father’s positive influence in his life struggles socially and emotionally. A likely outcome is a life of crime and ultimately jail, and that is not acceptable to us. So how do we create a new legacy, and sustain it?

L.E.A.D. Ambassadors on a tour of the Fulton County Jail 2015

We know that strong positive male figures in a young person’s life provide support to help create a solid foundation necessary for a young person to lead an empowered life – a life that isbased on making good choices and finding the right opportunities that result in emotional and social success.

We also know that a young person can’t have too many positive male influences throughout his life. They can come from various backgrounds. They can be fathers, coaches, teachers and pastors. How a young person interacts and learns from them depends on whether they are a role model, mentor or a hero. It is important to distinguish between the three, as each will have a different approach and impact. A young person needs to choose an influencer based on what his dreams are for himself. Initially, he may not know what he wants, but over time and through experience and growth he will. The key is to get started.

Following are guidelines to help you identify, and work with, the right influencer:


Heroes you may know or not know. A hero will be someone on a similar path or journey you’ve chosen. Someone you can emulate. Here’s what to look for in a hero:

• They take a stand and lead by example in service to those in need.

• They do it voluntarily and without regard to perceived risks.

• They accept anticipated sacrifice.

• They are steadfast in their principles and beliefs when making decisions.

• They are transformative.


Mentors you know personally and interact with regularly. They provide support to challenges in daily life. They provide answers to questions that come up in the normal course of living, such as: Where do I find the school bus schedule? I want to play baseball, how do I get started? Where is the best place to study? I want to work, where do I look for opportunities? What do I have to do to get a driver’s license? Mentors may be lifelong relationships, or they may be in your life for a short while, depending on your needs.


Role models you know personally and sometimes well. You learn from them through observation. They may offer insight into their actions and successes and you listen. They provide affirmation that you can be successful if you do things they’ve done to be successful.

L.E.A.D. Ambassador Tyquavious Noland is a rising senior student/athlete at Maynard H. Jackson High School

L.E.A.D. challenges its Ambassadors to lead and become heroes to those young men that are coming up behind them. These young Ambassadors are accepting the challenge and taking steps toward positive change that would scare an adult. They are working hard to transform their character positively even though they know the risk of losing what they know and are comfortable with. This often means the loss of family and childhood friends. The Ambassadors are consistently making right choices over wrong ones even when wrong “has a louder voice” in their head. They are learning to question “why the behavior” instead of simply singling out the behavior. The Ambassadors are also learning to model excellence because they know a peer is watching, and when they watch the positive character transformation take place, they will follow. 

L.E.A.D. provides strong positive male leaders as role models, mentors and heroes to assist in the Ambassadors in change, and we hold them accountable. Becoming a hero is a process. An Ambassador who accepts the challenge of becoming a leader and does what is necessary to become a hero knows there is a learning curve and it will be a long and difficult road. They also know that they will get the attention they need to succeed, and we will be dreaming their dream along with them.

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