We all have a story. What’s yours?

I have a story to tell and you have a story to tell.  We all matter and have a story to share.  When is the last time that you have had the opportunity  to tell your story?

My life hasn’t been perfect and there may be more negative moments than positive if I could press rewind.  Often times, I wouldn’t share my story for fear that I would be judged.

Many people across the country know about the great work that we are doing in the city of Atlanta through L.E.A.D.  Many of you have watched us grow from 2007 when our goal was to only offer free baseball clinics throughout the inner city of Atlanta to now offering year round programming serving over 250 young men in the Atlanta Public School System (APS).  Before L.E.A.D., baseball never existed at the middle school level in APS.  We have now graduated 33 Ambassadors from high school and they have all enrolled in college.  In 2014, we will have our first college graduating class.  Click here to check out our impact stats.

In order for us to make this type of impact, it requires support.  Many people ask me how I am able to get so many people to help us achieve our mission for L.E.A.D. such as Georgia’s Own Credit Union, Chick-fil-ABelk, Atlanta Braves, Kim King Foundation, and many others. The answer is me being willing to share my story to people who care to listen.  In that lies God’s will being done.  Here is a snapshot of my story.

The youth living in the inner city Atlanta zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318 grow up to represent 80% of the Georgia State Prison population.  The zip code 30314 is the 5th most dangerous community in America.  These statistics tell a story but each one of the youth living in these zip codes have a story to tell and often times don’t get to tell it to people that care to listen.  They all have dreams and I thank God that I am in a position to help them achieve them.

Yesterday, I got a chance to tell my story to 11 men and one woman at our Annual L.E.A.D. Coaches Workshop.  We weren’t discussing how to swing a bat.  We were discussing ways of creating memorable experiences for every young man that wears the L.E.A.D. emblem.

Ty Yokum (Chick-fil-A) facilitating our annual L.E.A.D. Coaches Workshop

We had coaches in attendance from our eight APS partner middle schools (King, Parks, Sylvan Hills, B.E.S.T., Harper-Archer, Brown, Young and Kennedy) and the workshop was facilitated by Ty Yokum who serves as the Training Manager of Chick-fil-A.  The workshop started with a video of people sharing their stories inside of a Chick-fil-A restaurant.  I was so moved by the video.  There was a lady sitting in a booth alone drinking coffee.  Her husband died a month prior and they would have shared their 50th anniversary that day.  There was a young and energetic girl bouncing around the story whose mother died when she was giving birth to her and now her father blames her for her mothers death.  With all of that, it is still the responsibility of the Chick-fil-A employees to treat each customer with respect because we all have a story.  I often go to Chick-fil-A just to feel good.  To be cheered up because they are one of the best in the business of providing memorable experiences.

I heard the stories of all of my coaches as well as my wife in the room and it was powerful.  I have been around many of them for years and never knew their story.  It is almost impossible to achieve a mission without knowing the stories of those that are fighting for change with you.

More than ever, our coaches will make the time to hear the stories of the young men that we serve.  Only 34% of African-American males graduate from high school within Atlanta Public Schools but they have a story to tell and L.E.A.D. is going to listen.  In order to make change, we have to spend less time talking and more time listening to our youth.

A movement was started yesterday.  Stay tuned.  Click here to join the L.E.A.D. team.