Come out to Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Baseball Field this Saturday, August 1 at 11am for the first annual Safe at Home game between Atlanta’s inner city youth and cops. These groups are good at bat so you may see a Grand Slam or two. We know that, in baseball, a Grand Slam is “a home run hit when each of the three bases is occupied by a runner, thus scoring four runs”. However, for some, a Grand Slam is L.E.A.D. “knocking it out of the park with bases loaded” to empower Atlanta’s underserved inner city youth to lead Atlanta, the Nation, or maybe even the World.

First “up at bat”. A base hit. Safe on First.

Joining L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) requires a participant’s commitment to complete its program.

Initially, the teenaged boys that we serve are attracted to our program by the very thought of playing baseball. Commitment to other aspects of the program is not their priority. Money, influence and girls are valued more than education and community. I’d argue that’s the case for most boys their age.

I “get it”. A middle or high schooler may feel that he has less freedom if he accepts the tenets of accountability, core values and morals. However, the Ambassadors (young men who have committed to L.E.A.D.’s program) will tell you that the structure created in their lives through participation in our program frees them from the constant worry of becoming an Atlanta statistic: Youth from inner city Atlanta zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318 grow up to represent 80% of the Georgia Prison population.

Further, once committed to the program, the Ambassadors are also free to think seriously about graduating from high school and college, and starting a career of their own choosing. They are fully aware that this breaks their cycle of poverty and helps reverse another statistic: Only 60% of black males from Atlanta Public Schools will graduate from high school on time or at all.

When the Safe at Home game is over, I hope adults encourage more inner city youth to see that a commitment to L.E.A.D. is a pro-active first step toward a promising future.

Another base hit. Players now safe on First and Second.

Commitment by itself will not lead to a successful outcome. Engagement is also necessary. The Ambassadors are exposed to growth opportunities that empower. We do not enable or encourage negative behavior. Doing so only spurs a groundless sense of empowerment.

We are grateful for our Safe at Home partners APIVEO and the Atlanta Police Foundation for creating and participating in activities that have engaged the Ambassadors in positive interactions during this last month. L.E.A.D. Ambassadors and Atlanta inner city cops have had fun getting to know each other, and building relationships based on trust. To hit a Grand Slam, we need more partners like these.

Another base hit. Players safe on First, Second and Third.

The third component to L.E.A.D.’s program is development. The program is year round and serves black males grades 6 to12 enrolled in Atlanta Public Schools. The Ambassadors are immersed in activities and learning environments specifically designed for assessment, engagement, empowerment and application. They are also taught six core values twice during the year – excellence, humility, integrity, loyalty, stewardship, and teamwork. Everyone in L.E.A.D.’s organization is held accountable for learning them and incorporating these values into their lives.

L.E.A.D. mentors and coaches never miss a chance to encourage the Ambassadors to strive to become Atlanta’s next generation of leaders.

Another hit. A home run. Bases loaded. L.E.A.D. Hits a Grand Slam!

Commitment, Engagement, Development and a successfully executed methodology is L.E.A.D.’s Grand Slam. As a Pathway2Empowerment organization, it is attracting Atlanta’s inner city young black boys to commit to, engage in, and develop, a sustainable life of significance. Their success is crucial to Atlanta making a name for itself as a world class city. How will you help?