Herndon Game Changer Program begins fourth year

Shayla Benson

Marketing Intern

Informative Essay

16 November 2017

“Changing Outlooks, Changing Lives”: Herndon Game Changer Program

Youth outreach is taking the initiative to prepare younger generations to meet the challenges of adulthood and reach their full potential. Through leadership activities, engaging educational programs, youth outreach supports adolescents in developing: (a) the ability to analyze his or her own strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and build the self-esteem, confidence, motivation, and skills to carry them out (including establishing support networks in order to fully participate in community life and effect positive social change); and (b) the ability to guide or direct others on a course of action, influence the opinions and behaviors of others, and serve as a role model (Wehmeyer, Agran, & Hughes, 1998). A few prominent non- profit organizations who dedicate themselves to this work of social and professional development of young people include the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and The Urban League. Amongst those organizations is a burgeoning entrepreneurial training program in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia committed to equipping the next generation of young adults with the tools and practice that has proven to be effective for distinguished leaders and entrepreneurs – the Herndon Game Changer Program.

Founded in 2014, The Herndon Game Changer Program provides high school students in the Atlanta Metropolitan area with a year- round program that trains, educates, and encourages youth to recognize business opportunities and plan for successful futures. Meeting one Saturday a month from October to May, Game Changer students are given hands-on exposure and training from prominent CEOs and entrepreneurs in the Atlanta area. In addition to participating in community service, receiving access to a number of local corporate leaders, students are supported through presenting their personal business plans to a live audience of business leaders. As the Game Changers embark on their final year of high school, graduating seniors who have enrolled in college are eligible to receive scholarships to aid with their transition. As its fourth year has commenced, The Herndon Game Changer Program had their 2017- 2018 Program Orientation on Saturday, October 28, 2017 at the Herndon Home Mansion Museum where students learned about the life and legacy of the Program namesake, Alonzo Franklin Herndon.

Over the Game Changer Programs evolution, students have ranged from 14 to 18 years old, representing cities all across the City of Atlanta – from Douglas to Dekalb.  The highlight of every Game Changers program year is the culminating achievement and graduation ceremony. With student presentations being judged by well- known leaders and entrepreneurs in Atlanta, including Todd Zeldin, President & Founder of ACG Professionals, Amanda Williamson, Designer & Owner of Ennyluap, and Dr. Edward Davis, Dean of Clark Atlanta University’s School of Business, Game Changer students are afforded an opportunity to receive constructive criticism from real- world professionals and practice their presentation and critical thinking skills. Ceremony speakers have included included Keynote Speaker Councilman Kwanza Hall presenting a Proclamation on behalf of the City of Atlanta, declaring June 11, 2016 “Herndon Game Changers Day”, and Attorney Michael Thurmond, who actively engaged the students and inspired them to stay on track in their entrepreneurial journeys. The 2016-2017 class of Herndon Game Changers set a program record when graduating seniors received over $30,000 in scholarship funds to pursue their most ambitious dreams.

This year the Herndon Game Changer Program has continued to grow exponentially, accepting 54 juniors and seniors from 14 different schools in the Metro Atlanta area and the 2017-18 Program year holds an action- packed schedule for each of them. With sessions exploring entrepreneurship,leadership, and public speaking students will be exposed an exceptional opportunity that is few and far between, and specifically molded to produce our generation’s next big thing. The local business community is also engaged, and invited to participate in the program through formal business panels and volunteering alongside students during the annual community service day taking place at the Herndon Home Museum. Apart from the in- depth planning that makes this program possible, it is the community participation that heavily factors into the success of the program. Whether it is the array of volunteer guest speakers, or the community leaders who support the program with a financial investment, they are all doing their part to further the impact of entrepreneurship and continue the lasting legacy of Alonzo F. Herndon, creating the Game Changers of the next generation. The second Herndon Game Changer session for the 2017-2018 program is focused on Entrepreneurial tools and Skills and will take place Saturday, December 16th at the Dean Rusk YMCA. Business owners and entrepreneurs interested in learn more about the program and participating in the annual business panel can reach the Program Director at jwsmith@herndonhome.org.