03-06-2020 · Education · African-American Partnership

“We all have a challenge right now to build up the next generation,” said 11x NBA All-Star and 2x NBA Champion Chris Bosh. “Take on that challenge – especially when it’s hard.”

Bosh, alongside actor and budding filmmaker Kofi Siriboe, joined African-American Partnership (AAP) for its fifth-annual Leadership Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Atlanta.

AAP, a giving group from United Way of Greater Atlanta, is the premiere platform for African-American professionals to engage in philanthropy, leadership and service in the Greater Atlanta region. The group boasts more than 1,000 members and raises $2.6 million every year for United Way programming. It’s celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year and is honoring that legacy with a 20-year timeline and a collection of 20 stories about the impact the group has made in its lifetime.

For the past five years, AAP has been hosting the Leadership Luncheon in order to specifically benefit its Build a Library program.

Through Build a Library, United Way of Greater Atlanta and AAP collaborate to provide literature in youth-serving organizations where African-American youth play and learn. Build a Library ultimately became the cornerstone for AAP’s signature cause, Powering the Potential, which expanded the supports and educational efforts offered through the literacy program.

Through Powering the Potential, AAP partners with local nonprofits, after-school providers and Atlanta professionals to advance the academic achievement and long-term success of young African-American men and boys through year-round literacy and mentorship programs.

Neon Chapman, senior project manager for UPS and chairman for AAP, told the Leadership Luncheon audience about his own personal connection to the cause and the pertinent need for mentorship in the African-American community.

“I wanted to be someone who could put some good back into this world,” said Chapman. “But it wasn’t until I was 10 years old that I would understand just exactly how I could begin my personal journey to success.”

Chapman described how critical it was, at 10 years old, to see his father’s high school and college degrees hung on the walls in his childhood home in Baltimore, Maryland. Those degrees, combined with his parents’ desire for him to succeed, propelled him in his journey to and through college. But that need for positive reinforcement and guidance never faded.

“In the beginning of my life, I looked up to my mother and father,” said Chapman. “And I still do. But today, I also look up to the countless mentors who have stepped in to help me along my professional career path at UPS.”

Chapman called on audience members to consider taking up mentorship opportunities through AAP. The giving group hosts Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM)-related career expos that pair AAP members and prospective members with students from around the region for a day of workshops focused on learning about gainful employment opportunities in various fields. The event will be taking place again this year.

Milton J. Little, Jr., president and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta, called special attention to a student who was identified by an AAP volunteer at the STEAM-related career expo from 2018. Though bright and resourceful, the student had obstacles that were blocking his pathway to success.

“He was born to parents who both became incarcerated when he was young,” said Little. “He was living with his grandparents, who had supported him for almost his entire life.”

Little explained that while he was making the most out of his situation, this student needed the same supports that many others needed on their own paths to college.

So, over the course of the past year, United Way and the volunteer guided him through corporate and virtual school visits, helped him understand the financial aid process, showed him how to apply for scholarships and introduced him to alumni from various collegiate institutions.

“As a result of combining his hard work with these supports, we are proud to announce that he has his sights set on attending the likes of UGA, Morehouse… and the University of California, Berkeley,” said Little.

Little later stated the success of this student should become the standard, not the exception, as Powering the Potential continues to expand its efforts at six different sites across Greater Atlanta. It also continues to drive the progress of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Movement forward.

The Child Well-Being Movement is United Way’s continued commitment to ensuring that every child in Greater Atlanta has the opportunity to thrive. United Way defines thriving communities as those where babies are born healthy, kids read proficiently by third grade and teens graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Those conditions can only exist in areas where people are educated, employed and housed.

“We’ve seen that providing books through the Build a Library program opened a door to educational curiosity,” said Little. “Our Powering the Potential initiative expanded the realm of possibility for a successful future.”

Following Little’s remarks, Jovita Moore, anchor for Channel 2 Action News, took the stage to interview Kofi Siriboe about how mentorship helped carve his pathway to success.

“I’m grateful that my mom and dad, despite the circumstance, fought to give me the opportunity to explore and discover,” said Siriboe.

Siriboe also explained how other mentors helped him gain awareness about the need for positive mental health supports and open dialogues in his community.

His remarks were followed by an interview with Chris Bosh. The former NBA star commended AAP for its efforts through Powering the Potential.

“I was once one of those kids who needed a free lunch and a basketball program,” said Bosh. “You are touching the fabric of the community more than you know.”

At the event’s conclusion, Moore shared some closing remarks to send audience members home with the same heightened sense of purpose Bosh iterated.

“We’re celebrating AAP’s 20th Anniversary this year,” said Moore. “What will you contribute to AAP’s history? What legacy will you leave that can one day be put up on the timeline for AAP’s 40th anniversary celebration?”

With those words ringing in their head, attendees were pressed to join AAP and become a part of the group’s enduring legacy.

If you would like to join in the impactful work of AAP, visit the AAP landing page on United Way of Greater Atlanta’s website and make your pledge today.