When five members of the 100 Black Men of Syracuse were accepted into the Community Foundation’s The Leadership Classroom (TLC), they were a little skeptical at first. Robert, Vince, Bryan, Cornelius and Alan wondered if this was going to be a boring way to spend five hours on a Saturday. It only took one meeting for them to realize that would be far from the case.
“We walked away with a wealth of information to help us evaluate our strengths and weaknesses as well as plan where we, as an organization, want to be,” said Vince Love, President of 100 Black Men’s local chapter.
TLC, a Community Foundation initiative, is an intensive training program designed for those who have a desire to be active in the local community. The series of five-hour classes, held once a month for eight months, is structured to help participants build their skills in leading a group or project. Class participation is encouraged and the sessions are often a free-flow of ideas.
The 100 Black Men of Syracuse, a group of professional men who volunteer to improve the local community in the areas of mentoring, education, economic development and health, is a fairly new organization with ambitious plans. With a board of directors formed only eighteen months ago, the group found TLC to be an opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills and increase the involvement of their members. They also saw it as a chance to learn about available fundraising resources and how to tap into them.
The Men conduct a variety of programs year-round to accomplish their mission. For example, once a month a group of up to 20 volunteers visit Hughes Magnet School in Syracuse to read to children in grades K-6 and promote the fun of reading. The group also conducts a mentoring program for adolescent boys to help them make smart decisions. The men found that their projects were enhanced after attending the TLC classes. The TLC curriculum includes lessons on writing grants, approaching the media, conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and approaching potential donors.
“You learn how to plan the future of your projects and how to progress through them in a manner that references where you are at, building meaningful steps along the way,” said Vince.
At the end of the TLC series, each team receives up to $3,500 to implement a community project. For their project, the 100 Black Men plan to start a drill team for local youth.
“We felt this would be a great opportunity for our young people to get involved in something positive,” said Vince. “The experience will hopefully teach them discipline, teamwork and responsibility while building their self-esteem.”
The men credit TLC with providing them the skills necessary to succeed as they implement the drill team project. “Now we can review the program’s strengths, weaknesses and future opportunities,” said Robert Sykes. “The strategic lessons of TLC have certainly prepared us for this new venture.”