I grew up in a working-class family in the suburbs of St. Louis. I had a great childhood, the middle of three boys, with two great parents and mischievous friends; I look back on my adolescent years fondly. Life wasn’t perfect, however. We lived paycheck to paycheck. If the lights didn’t turn on, it wasn’t due to a blackout. My parents loved one another, but would argue often, mostly about money issues. They separated when I was 10 and divorced thereafter. I learned a lot from them, but knew that, as an adult, I never wanted to worry about money. Since the tender age of 13, I had a singular goal in life – to become a millionaire by the time I was 30. “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” is not something you hear from people struggling to put food on the table, pay rent or keep the lights on.
Now having hit my goal, I’ve looked back to determine how I accomplished it. Would I attribute it to luck? Sure, maybe, but if luck was a factor then so were a number of other variables. Have you heard the proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.“? I believe that is only part of the equation. You need access to fishing supplies. You need to know where to fish. You need the social skills as well as the business and financial acumen to negotiate and trade fish for other wants and needs. Importantly, you need to know what opportunities other than fishing are possible. For our communities to prosper, opportunities must be democratized and the education and resources accessible to all.
My goal with SLA Foundation is to advance our communities through linking employers with high schools, and students with mentors, thus providing kids with the inspiration, guidance, and network they need to succeed. My big, audacious vision is to connect the hundreds of employers with the thousands of high-school students in the Austin metro, thus, opening students’ eyes to the opportunities abound and inspiring them to further their education/training to achieve their dreams. To achieve this, we have a four-pronged approach, all of which utilizes young professionals from diverse industries within the local community.
First, we serve as speakers within the SLA Speaker Series, going into underserved high-schools and sharing our personal success stories – relating to our audience, inspiring them to dream big and put forth the necessary effort, and educating them on what professional jobs exist and how to go about obtaining them. Second, we host the SLA Seminar Series with the purpose of coaching students on crucial non-academic skills and traits (networking, interpersonal skills, wellness/healthy living, confidence, self-agency, personal finance, etc). Third, we take students on field trips to college campuses and local employers via the SLA Immersion Series to share what it is really like to attend college and have a professional career. And finally, we act as long-term mentors ensuring students’ success from graduating high-school to attending college and through to career placement.
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