We’ve been celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Future Foundation this year.
What started as an idea among my wife, Delicia, my sister, Qaddirah, and myself to help kids from our old elementary school get more academic assistance has turned into a strong, mission-driven Foundation that provides a wide range of services to Atlanta youth and their families.
Back in 2001, we were serving just 15 kids in an afterschool program…
…and today we’re a network serving over 500 middle and high school students in Atlanta’s South Fulton community through after school classes, family support workshops, and corporate mentorships.
Besides our growth, there have been so many other great accomplishments that have happened along the way — with probably the best being that every single one of our students has graduated from high school…
…and the vast majority of those kids have gone on to college, community college, or a post-secondary training program.
As I’ve thought back over the 20 years of our existence, there have been a few key things we’ve done that have aided our success — and I wanted to share them in the hopes they might help those of you looking to start a long-running initiative of your own, or are already years in and want to keep going strong.
- We’ve been able to see the fruits of our labor.
Over the course of time, we’ve watched many kids who have gone through our program graduate from highschool and go off to college, then come back to work with us. It’s been amazing to see their success — and our success — in action and feel the tangible impact that we’re making in kids’ lives. Seeing the results of our work has definitely been the best motivator to keep us working on our mission and achieving new goals.
- We’re open to evolving.
Our original idea for the Future Foundation was to provide educational support to elementary school-age kids from our old neighborhood, but the longer we provided the programming, the more we noticed the other needs that existed for the kids — especially those that existed in their families.
So, we evolved our programming to include that family support and also created our Second-Family Model that supplies middle and high school students with an entire community of supportive adults — from teachers and tutors to executives in the corporate, executive, and nonprofit sectors. Through afterschool and summer programs, corporate visits, and family support sessions, we help our students build a network of caring adults and broaden their vision for their futures.
- We’ve been blessed to work with amazing people.
The Future Foundation has always had amazing leadership, a fantastic board, and lots of loyal supporters. Each of our leaders has steered us in the right direction and has been 100% committed to our mission — which has been absolutely critical for our success. We choose the people we work with carefully, but we’ve also been so fortunate to have the highest caliber of people want to work with us, and then become so dedicated to mentoring and serving our kids.
- We’ve had the opportunity to see the true — and very real — need for our work.
There is nothing that could have illuminated the need for our work more than going through COVID-19. We knew that there was already a large gap in resources for kids in under-resourced communities of course, but COVID really showed us how broken many of our systems truly are. Our students — all of whom qualify for free school lunch — experienced major food insecurities when the schools were closed, and many struggled to keep up with their at-home learning because they didn’t have access to the right technology. Seeing those issues amplified so brightly has helped to keep us motivated and doing everything we can to meet our students’ and their families’ needs.
Starting, running, and growing a successful Foundation has involved each of these four things, and yet there’s one thing that has helped us continue to succeed more than anything else: we just continue to show up every chance we get and do the work as best we can, in whatever way we can.
A 20-year success story — whether it’s a strong and steady nonprofit, a thriving business, an impressive academic or sports career, or anything else — isn’t achieved in a few milestone accomplishments.
It IS achieved, however, through the smaller actions that, when done consistently, all add up to form a much deeper, more meaningful, and more lasting foundation — and ultimately a much greater impact.
Here’s to the next 20 years!