ORLANDO, Fla. — It might seem to many that the “No Child Left Behind” program, ironically, is leaving an endless trail of young students on the side of the road to that destination called success.
In response, the Central Florida chapter of the National Black MBA Association is doubling its efforts to buoy young, gifted African American scholars through the national Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) program.
Actually, it could be called the “Reach Back” program because chapter president Stephanie Hale and her Black MBA team appropriate considerable time, money, effort and expertise hoisting young gifted scholastic performers on their shoulders so they can peer above the wall of obstacles into a vast ocean of opportunities and possibilities.
“That’s why we are dedicated to getting beyond the basics,” Hale says with resolve. “We take them through the skills they need to make it in the work force. They’ve come to our jobs. They’ve seen business and have heard and had discussions that most kids don’t have. They have an opportunity to solve a problem or think about it in an environment that is safe, that’s informative and that challenges them to think. And that’s what’s most important. If you think that you are just studying for a test, then you’re never going to be able to think on your feet and make right decisions in life.”
Neila Wilson, chapter VP of strategic programming, concurred with Hale. She sounded like she could have written a dissertation on the subject of children and leadership training.
“It’s not just about building their critical-thinking skills. It’s about developing really great people who will go out and do really great things,” Wilson says, mentioning that they have formed a very close-knit group of 10 students who are engaged to think businesslike and have a strong desire to be successful. “We believe they would be successful without us, but we hope to give them information that will help them get there a little more quickly without all the trials and tribulations. They are all talented kids.”
Although the students are the focus of the program, the lives of the adults involved are equally as enriched by it. Nat Martin, VP of administration, attests to the great gratification derived from clearing the road to success of potholes so the young students won’t get stranded without a spare. “It’s the opportunity to help people — to give back — that I most enjoy,” he mentions. “[It’s about] getting involved and helping others, paving a path for them and helping them with some things that went well for me, but didn’t go as well as I thought they would.”