On The Heart Beat
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Stewartship Takes Stewardship to New Heights
Dictionaries say stewardship “is the job of taking care” and the Stewarts of Atlanta have been redefining that mission by truly caring deeply for at risk local youths.
The Stewarts, C.J. and his wife Kelli, in Atlanta have put their hearts and their lives on the line empowering a generation of black young men using baseball as a platform to overcome life’s curveballs.
C.J., a former Chicago Cubs organization player, best-selling author and Kelli, an advocate and resource for social justice and emotional development of youth are the co-founders of L.E.A.D., acronym for: Launch. Expose. Advise. Direct.
- Launching student athletes towards educational opportunities after converting raw talent into the skills required for entry into college athletic programs.
- Exposing teens to service and local enrichment activities in order to instill a sense of responsibility, belonging and investment; key requirements for building a civically engaged individual.
- Advising players, coaches and parents on the process of effectively supporting dreams of playing baseball on the college level”
- Directing young men towards their promise by using the historical journey of past African American legends as the road map.
C.J. Stewart grew up in one of Atlanta’s most dangerous apartment complexes. His story is a perfect example of the phrase, ‘where you start doesn’t determine where you finish’ and he’s been sharing that with young Atlantans like Tyquavious Noland whose story resembles C.J.’s
Noland joins other L.E.A.D. alumni like Austin Evans whose in early life was surrounded by what he described as “black mafia” went on to Texas A&M and remains one of the many L.E.A.D Ambassadors who serve as tangible examples of success to their peers.
Kelli Stewart proudly points to L.E.A.D.’s 100% high school graduation rate that leads to a 95% college enrollment, powered by 92% of scholarship opportunities.
Equally proud, C.J. heartily points to how L.E.A.D.’s integrated system fuses four pillars (athletics/baseball, academics, civic engagement, commerce) with six core values (excellence, humility, integrity, loyalty, stewardship, teamwork), and provides year round experiences in phased approach to development (assessment, engagement, empowerment, application).
“Simply stated, we meet our youth where they are, guide them along our Pathway2Empowerment and help them chart a course that leads to a sustainable life of significance; with a focus on empowering them to break the cycle of poverty in their families,” C.J. says.
He and Kelli also partner in operating Diamond Directors, a baseball training facility in Atlanta which features C.J.’s prowess as a hitting instructor to Big and Little Leaguers.
The Stewarts’ big hearts are changing the lexicon of good sports, adding “stewartship” as a model for caring deeply for youth dealing with life’s curveballs.
And the beat goes on…