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Friday, August 30, 2013

One In a Million: Diane Latiker and Kids Off the Block

Since the killing of Trayvon Martin we've had a resurgence of talk regarding murders, especially black on black homicides. Why aren't these deaths, thousands of them, on the front burner of every news story? Who is out there helping get the word out and opening their lives to at-risk youth?

One such person is Diane Latiker. This mother of eight started the Kids Off the Block in Chicago in 2003. Helping out homeless kids, gang kids, and all at-risk youth is what she does. Her unselfishness has set the bar high for the rest of us. Here is part of her story from CNN's Hero:
Here are her words on starting Kids Off the Block:

"I am a mother of eight, and in 2003 the only one left at home was my youngest daughter Aisha. She was 13 at the time and she had nine friends. Every summer they would play on the block, boys and girls ages 13-15. I knew that I had to keep up with her, so I started taking all of them fishing, swimming, to the movies, everywhere I could to keep them off the streets. My mom, Evangelist Ruth Jackson watched me with the kids and said to me one day "why don't you do something with the kids, they like and respect you". I didn't want to do it, but didn't want to say that to my mother. I prayed about it for three days, and on July 15, 2003 Aisha and her friends were outside playing. I walked outside and called them together. I asked them what did they want to do with their lives. They started jumping up and down, saying they wanted to be doctors, lawyers, singers, rappers, basketball players, etc;. They looked so sincere and excited. 

I then asked them if I started "something" in my house would they participate. Mind you, I had no clue as to what I was starting. I knew nothing about organizations, EIN numbers, programs or nothing, but I did know at that moment that I was hooked and wanted to do something to help them. That same day I brought them into my house, I listened to them as they each told me their stories, of course I thought I already knew Aisha's. They shared with me the issues they now face as teenagers. The boys being approached by gangs, the girls being approached by boys/men about sex. They all shared some issues like fatherless homes, fear of violence, failing in school, poverty and a sense of hopelessness when it came to their community."

Diane Latiker is a rare find- a role model for our nation. Black youth, white youth, the city of Chicago, you, me… the list is endless. Imagine if her commitment and concern spread throughout our cities. The domino effect would be amazing. Thank you Miss Latiker for being part of the solution. You certainly are one in a million.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Free World-Class Education? Yes, Tomorrow is Here

Getting ahead in life is not simple, this is nothing new. Even for those who possess money, connections, and an education, professional achievement is not attained easily. There is no denying that an education opens doors for financial security. Unfortunately the high cost of education is a barrier for many. What if you could educate yourself at a university level for free?

Well tomorrow has arrived in the form of free education. One of the top social entrepreneurship companies is Coursera. In their words:

"We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in."

Today's world is changing at an alarming rate. One such change involves exponential connectivity. Technology has enabled opportunities for all of us to advance. Coursera is one of those opportunities, another is MIT OpenCourseWare. What is needed on our part is time and a sincere effort.

It won't be easy, nothing of value is. That is what makes things of value so dear. I can't promise you that your life will transform overnight. What I can tell you is that it will pay dividends financially, socially, and personally.

Now is the time to strike. These doors are open, but that is of little value if we don't walk through them. Enter the doors of opportunity and embrace a brighter tomorrow.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Opportunity Costs

In today's world time might be our greatest resource. In fact, I would argue it is our most precious resource. One we can never replenish. Once it's gone, it's gone forever. With that in mind opportunity costs play an enormous role in our day to day.

Opportunity cost is basically the loss of potential gain when one alternative is chosen over another.

Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the next best alternative forgone (that is not chosen). It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone, or group, who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices.[1] The opportunity cost is also the "cost" (as a lost benefit) of the forgone products after making a choice.

Basically, if we choose to hangout with friends an opportunity cost for that action could be studying, and the opposite would be just as true. The crazy thing is this: once the opportunity passes, it may never present itself again. That is a real possibility. 

The difference between greatness and mediocrity is not as unachievable as some may think. The truth is  many of the top performers (athletes, CEO's, musicians, doctor's, etc.) have sacrificed the easy road while calculating their opportunity costs to reach their goals.

It is true, nothing of value comes easy. Thomas Paine once said, "That which we attain too easily, we esteem too lightly." 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eyes On The Prize

Sara Groves performs an honest, beautiful song. The message reinforces us to keep our goals and priorities in mind no matter what obstacles and hardships we face.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Remembering a Shining Star

Some years back I had the pleasure of meeting my son’s teammates and their families in little league. They seemed to be a great group of people, and they were, both on the field and off. One of his teammates was a boy named Andrew McCann.

Andrew, one year younger than my son Michael, was quite a ballplayer. Whether batting or pitching, he was exceptional. As a matter of fact, he was one of the leagues leaders in both categories… and he still had another year to play. I’d asked my son what Andrew was like in the dugout, when the parents weren’t around. His response, “Andrew's a good kid”.

As I got to know Andrew better, I realized, wow, this kid's different. But how could that be? He’s a big stud on the team and the league. He must be full of himself. After becoming friends with his parents, Bruce and Sue, and meeting his siblings, Ryan and Caitlyn, I began to understand why.

Not only was Andrew humble, he was incredibly understated for a kid with so much talent. Understated and unassuming. A pleasure to be around. Nicest kid. As polite as they come. All of these statements ring true when describing the 17 year old. In today’s youth culture, this is a rare quality. It’s hard not to be inspired by a teen with that kind of heart and talent, who is just as humble and decent.

On early morning January 26, 2012, while receiving “Happy Birthdays” from friends, I’d received one of the worst phone calls of my life: “There was a horrible accident on Route 140 and Andrew McCann is dead.”

I’ve been through a lot: many deaths of friends and loved ones, much violence, years in prison, getting separated from my wife and children for 5 years, etc., but that phone call left me numb. I even asked, “Are you sure it’s Andrew?”, hoping it was someone else. Not that I wanted anyone’s child to have died, just not Andrew.

We buried Andrew today on the last day of January, 2012. As the multitudes of people said goodbye, I couldn’t help but look up to the sunny, clear sky thinking, “Today rain was in the forecast”, but the sky was blue. As if he and his sister Jennifer were keeping the skies clear for all of us. 

I can’t ever recall a time in my life where a young man has ever made an impact on so many lives. It was evident at the wake, with thousands of people paying their respects, and again today at the funeral. An amazing star, both in sports and life, Andrew made an impact at age 17 that most could not make in a whole lifetime. He’s now with his sister Jennifer who died at the age of five.

He was our son, cousin, brother, nephew, friend, teammate, student…  and I think many would agree with me when I say: Andrew, we miss you, we love you and we’ll catch up with you... maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but one day. Until we see you again, know that you will always be in our hearts.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Tale of Two Heroes

Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas I empathize with my fellow man a bit more than usual. Like most, I will sacrifice my money and time to help out the less fortunate.  But what is the limit of our sacrifices? A dollar or two given to a charity organization? Or perhaps holding the door open for strangers?

We have many heroes in the military sacrificing their lives for us everyday. The following two men are citizens but deserve the title “Hero” for the sacrifices they’ve made.

While on the subway platform the other day, I was reminded of the first of the two. A selfless man who risked his life for a complete stranger on a New York City, winter’s morning in 2007. January 2nd will be the fourth anniversary of Wesley Autrey saving Cameron Hollopeter’s life.

For those of you unaware of the story, here is a quick breakdown:
While waiting on the subway platform at 137th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, Wesley Autrey, with his two daughters, Syshe, 4 and Shuqui, 6 witnessed a man have a seizure and fall onto the subway tracks. To make matters worse the sound of the Number 1 trains could be heard, followed by it’s lights. There were only seconds to react. Mr. Autrey did respond by jumping onto the tracks and lying on top of the convulsing  Hollopeter while the train rolled over them.

An amazing act of self-sacrifice.  How many men would risk their own life to save the life of a complete stranger?

Our second hero lived only miles from the Harlem’s Autrey. His name is Pastor Ralph Farrait, and his unselfish life as a boxing trainer/pastor kept many South Bronx youth off the streets.

Pastor Ralph along with his wife of 41 years, Christine Farrait, taught principles and morals at their S. Bronx church. They opened this church to help out the at-risk youth. His guiding light did not stop there. Mr. Farrait trained many boxers, leading them both in the ring as well as out of the ring.

His whole life was dedicated to helping others. Whether they were fighters, kids needing guidance, his family, or his church community, Pastor Ralph would lend a hand. If you needed someone to talk to, he would be there, with an open heart and an easy smile. Our world just became a little colder with his untimely passing December 3rd, 2010.

If you believe in angels on earth, then Mr. Autrey and Mr. Farrait would qualify. At the very least, they are heroes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do What You Love / If Today Were Your Last Day

What if today were the last day of your life? Steve Jobs summed it up when he said, "Your time here is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life".

Do what you love. Make a difference. Start today. 

Here is a video exclusively using Apple sounds and Mr. Jobs voice / words. Thank you AzRmusic