Kelli Stewart, wife of Atlanta West End Rotarian C.J. Stewart was the club's speaker on February 12. The husband and wife team founded L.E.A.D., whose mission is to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform young boys into Ambassadors that will lead Atlanta and the world.
Atlanta West End Rotary was eager for another update from Kelli on L.E.A.D, which stands for Launch, Expose, Advise, and Direct. L.E.A.D. is a sports-based youth development (SBYD) organization providing support and guidance to approximately 350 boys that struggle in the areas of grades, attendance, and behavior. L.E.A.D. aims to help its Ambassadors to navigate and overcome the triple epidemics of crime, poverty, and racism. “We scout the counted out,” Kelli told the group.
Kelli presented a deeper dive into what it means to be practitioners of SBYD. In this SBYD framework, L.E.A.D. endeavors to develop in the Ambassadors the capacities for social-emotional learning (SEL) and to achieve social good by focusing on building team. More than just focusing on academic outcomes, which are too often used as the metrics of program success, SEL enhances transferrable faculties like goal orientation, self-management, positive identity, and others, that will help Ambassadors follow their individual plan for success, whatever that may be for each boy (college, work, military, sports, etc.). And while academics are not everything, L.E.A.D.’s metrics in this regard are undeniably positive. To date, L.E.A.D. Ambassadors have achieved a 100% high school graduate rate, 90% college enrollment rate, and 93% scholarship rate (academic and athletic).
L.E.A.D. also focuses on culturally relevant programming to engage authentically with its Ambassadors, which is just one of the six tenets of the philosophy of positive youth development (PYD), employed by Kelli and the L.E.A.D. team. For illustration, Kelli spoke of how Hank Aaron’s historic, record-breaking homerun accomplishment was achieved in the context of racist animus – Aaron’s was an achievement of athletic excellence and inner fortitude. Using PYD tenets, L.E.A.D. teaches the Ambassadors frameworks for how to navigate and overcome systems that would work against them.
The Q&A segment of Kelli’s time was just as illuminating as the structured remarks. Notably, we learned of the opening of the L.E.A.D. Center for Youth, a 5,500 square foot space located at the Met. The newly renovated space has become a home away from home for the Ambassadors. It was made possible by friends of L.E.A.D. and is itself an example of overcoming obstacles in life because the Center for Youth was an idea accelerated into reality due to the COVID-19 related shutdown of L.E.A.D.’s previous home base facility, Washington High.
In further comment on L.E.A.D.’s Atlanta Public Schools partner, Kelli hopes that APS realizes that it must embrace L.E.A.D. and other nonprofits that help children deal with the whole picture of daily challenges they face, outside of classroom concerns, which affect their readiness and ability to focus and perform inside the class.
Learn more about the good works of L.E.A.D. and how you can help: https://www.lead2legacy.org/