Oh how I love Grove Park Elementary because it first loved me

I walked the halls of Grove Park Elementary School as a student grades 1-5 between 1981 and 1986.  I had some of the most amazing teachers and the greatest principal on Earth.  I will never forget my principal Sylvia Jones.  I thought that she was the tallest woman in the world that gave the tightest hugs.  She always greeted me with a smile and spoke life into me.

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Weems and my second grade teacher was Mrs. Jacobs.  I flew on an airplane for the first time in the 2nd grade as a field trip.  We flew round trip to Charlotte.  My third grade teacher was Mrs. Blue.  She taught me how to speak Spanish and we won the state wide Spanish Festival competition.  For some reason, I can’t remember who my fourth grade teacher was.  I’m getting old.  Lol!  My fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Finch.  She pushed me to another level academically.
Atlanta Public Schools (APS) was under the leadership of Dr. Alonzo Crim when I was a child.  Mr. Crim created a culture of academic excellence supported by the Atlanta business community that was referred to as a “Community of Believers.”  As an APS student, I achieved at a high level academically because I never knew that failure was an option.
My mother and father were awesome! On a regular basis, my mother would tell me that I would one day be a respected leader.  I had the privilege of watching a dedicated father go to work everyday to ensure that the dreams that he and my mother had for me could be fulfilled.

My mother Gail Stewart and I at her alma mater Booker T. Washington High School. 

So in 2012, I am recognized as one of the top baseball swing coaches in America and Georgia Trend Magazines 2011 40 Brightest People Under the Age of 40.  I graduated with honors from Westlake High School and attended Georgia State University on a full academic/athletic scholarship.  My childhood dream of becoming a professional baseball player was realized in 1996 when I was drafted by the Chicago Cubs.  Now I am the owner of Diamond Directors Player Development, a business that I share with my wife that provides the blue print of success for amateur and professional baseball players across America.  How did all of this happen for me?

2011 GA Trend Magazine 40 Under 40. From left: Bill McLellan, Janet McLellan, Caitlin Sims (Grove Park Principal), Kelli Stewart, Mackenna and Mackenzi Stewart, CJ. Stewart, Steve White and Linda Rothermel.

I was born to amazing Christian parents that partnered with the Atlanta Public School System. A stranger at the time named T.J. Wilson pulled me to the side as a freshman at Westlake High School one day and said “you are going to play this game at the highest level.”  His words became action and before you know it, I was receiving professional baseball instruction, playing competitive baseball and being exposed to collegiate and professional scouts.  This is my story and an example of how Atlantans effectively serve each other to make this a great city.

My way of telling everyone that has helped me thank you is through my non-profit organization L.E.A.D., Inc.  Our mission is to provide at-risk inner city males with access to higher education and civic engagement through baseball.
Did you know that…
1. APS currently graduates 34% of it’s African-American males from high school?
2. APS currently serves 53,000 students and 80% of those students live at or below the poverty level?
3. APS students living in the 30310, 30315 and 30318 zip codes grow up to represent 80% of the Georgia State Prison population?
There are several social and economic reasons why these numbers exist.  It is not for a lack of competency and love from the APS teachers.  APS still is a great place to learn and develop like it was for me.
The current principal at Grove Park Elementary School is Caitlin Sims and she is Mrs. Sylvia Jones all over again.  Mrs. Sims is more than a principal, she is a community leader.  I need your help to empower her parents with the creation of the Stewart Family Resource Center at Grove Park Elementary School.  Atlanta is an international city that has solved problems throughout the world.  Let’s make sure that we continue to take care of home.  Serving others is the Atlanta Way!

Hanging out with Caitlin Sims and her awesome husband at the Braves game 2012

Below is a wish list from the Grove Park Elementary School Parents.  Contact Leslie Meshad at LMeshad@Comcast.net by Monday, November 12th to make donations.  Please join the Stewart Family and the Grove Park families on Friday, November 16th as we bring the Stewart Family Resource Center to life at Grove Park Elementary School (20 Evelyn Way, NW, Atlanta, GA 30318).  Thank you in advance for your support!

Grove Park Family Resource Center Wish List
1. Rated G movies and/or learning videos
2. Hands on toys for toddlers
3. Toy box
4. Coloring books and crayons
5. Children’s table and chairs (primary colors if possible)
6. 6 x 8 vibrant rug for children’s corner (primary colors if possible)
7. 8 x 10 rug for parent area
8. Love seat or small sofa and coffee table
9. Sideboard for coffee and snack service
10. Lamps
11. Coffee maker and supplies
12. Crock Pot
13. Serving utensils
14. Plants
15. Parenting magazines
16. Employment resources (books on making resumes, how to interview, etc.)
17. Crystal Springs water
18. Framed art with images of family
19. Women’s/Men’s business and casual clothing and shoes
Grove Park Elementary School
20 Evelyn Way, NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 802-7750 Direct