The wise inform us that every day is a gift. Some days I make the most of the gift and other days I fall short.
Then there are those precious few days that stand out above all others. The ones you know you will remember until you, as Shakespeare put it, ‘shuffle off this mortal coil.’
During my 30-plus year career, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain (James Taylor), experienced good times/bad times (Led Zeppelin). And if I took stock of my top ten best, most magical, career days, August 21, 2021, would be on that list.
That’s because that August Saturday was when we put our grand plans for the mentoring academy into action. We went live. It was…awesome. It was the definition of tangible, impactful, and local.
Fifteen dynamic young men. Rural and urban, black and white, all from western PA.
Ten program leaders. Fellow CNX employees, clinical psychologists Shani and Krysta, elite diversity and inclusion experts Dr. Clyde and Ron, businessmen and entrepreneurs John and Jamal.
We gathered to get to know one another, discuss a range of issues, and look ahead to what the mentor academy program will achieve. We settled in at ease, became a bit vulnerable, expressed opinions and thoughts.
The individuals feel the group dynamic and then commit all-in. A virtuous self-fueling cycle of individual-group-individual.
What gets discussed within our sessions stay within the sessions, so I’m not going into specifics. But I can report back on my resolute takeaways:
- Our youth in underserved communities have massive potential.
- These young men are smart, and I don’t mean just book-smart or street-smart. I mean smart in the context of awareness and savvy: they know the big issues inside and out, and they can read situations.
- As wise as they are and as deep as they assess, there are wide swaths of this world and life they have not had the benefit of being exposed to yet. That we can change.
- They are driven and motivated, but they are unsure of ‘to what’ and ‘how.’ Take their dreams and aspirations, help define a path of ‘to what’ and ‘how,’ and watch achievement in action.
- If I’m betting on this region, then I am betting on these individuals.
We intended to limit the size of the program to twelve this year. Based on what we saw that Saturday, the only logical answer is to offer admission to all fifteen. This creates a logistics issue, but a good challenge we can solve.
Next up, the kick-off event for the female portion of our program, and then our first formal site visit in late September at the Carpenter’s Training Center with our partners at the Builder’s Guild of Western Pennsylvania. Stay tuned for reports on both.
Yeah, every day is a gift. But some days are better than others (U2).