African-American Partnership (AAP) Cabinet members and professionals from around Atlanta recently volunteered as mentors for the Georgia State Early College Program Professional Luncheon. Through 9 workshops over a 3-day period, the volunteers shared details of their college experience and career path to approximately 100 dual enrolled high school students.

By taking college courses in the 11th and 12th grades, these students are already ahead of the pack. Nonetheless, it can be a stressful period. The career exposure from seasoned professionals is helpful to students as they determine their own career path. Mentors were extremely impressed with the desire these young adults have to become successful. Several students engaged mentors in dialogue about non-traditional revenue opportunities like wholesale real estate sales and paper stock market trading to supplement income.

Dr. Tene Davis, Associate Director of the Early College Program at Georgia State University, explained that the professionals that participated in the luncheon are “the light at the end of the tunnel” for the students that are taking on the challenge of being a high school and college student at the same time. The students came from early college program high schools at Therrell High School, Maynard Jackson High School, Booker T. Washington High School, Carver High School, and Decatur Early College Academy.

When asked why he always makes himself available to participate in mentoring and networking events, Hugh Rowden, SVP at Wells Fargo Company, spoke passionately about the importance for African-American professional men to be there for the next generation. “Once you reach a certain level in your career, your platform is not about you,” said Hugh.

Zaria Echols, one of the dual enrolled students at the luncheon, found the sessions very helpful. She “learned that I should be open to change; and I realized that because of technology, some jobs may be done by robots in the future.” She now sees that she should be more open to travel and study abroad programs. After graduating she wants to become a Radiologist. Currently, she is a junior at Maynard Jackson High School.

African-American Partnership Member, Michael D. Brown
Vice President, Human Resources
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia

AAP: Tell us about your role at Kaiser Permanente and how you impact the company’s strategic goals.

Michael: I am accountable for the design and execution of the Human Capital Strategy for Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, the state’s largest nonprofit health plan. The organization has 4,000 health care workers, 26 medical centers, contact centers and administrative offices. My key accountabilities involve delivering Human Resources solutions to the business, including: culture design, change management, succession and talent development, learning and organization effectiveness, employee engagement, equity, inclusion and diversity, workforce planning, employee wellness, employee relations, and labor relations.

 

AAP: What are your suggestions for individuals who are interested in a career in healthcare?

Michael: I can’t think of a better industry than health care to start a rewarding career.  It is a well-known fact that health care costs in America are too high and unsustainable.  And health care may be the single most important issue facing us today. Becoming a health care professional not only gives you the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives but you can also be a part of the innovative and progressive thinking that will help change the system and move us forward. At Kaiser Permanente, we believe all Americans should have access to affordable and quality health care. We are looking for professionals who are ready to take the journey with us and be a part of the bold moves that will transform health care as we know it.

 

AAP: How have you seen the role of human resources within a company evolve during your career?

Michael: Since 2000 when I started my career there has been a steady transformation of human resources from an administrative support function to a strategic and consultative business partner.  Increasingly, human resources professionals are counted on to solve business problems and lead large-scale change management. Many companies have realized – and rightfully so – that people are their most important assets.  As a result, the smart companies are investing in the development of their people at all levels of the organization; and they look to human resources to create systems and process to identify and cultivate the talent.

 

AAP: Why is philanthropy important? How do you give back to the community?

Michael: I realize that I have benefited greatly from the generosity and benevolence of others.  From the local small businesses that sponsored my youth sports teams, to the charitable donations of individuals who covered the cost of my college ACT and SAT preparation classes, I have been given opportunity, exposure, and education that I may not have otherwise been afforded.  I give back through volunteering as a coach.  My win-lost record would not suggest that I have a future in coaching, but I try to make it fun for the kids and help instill basic life skills and lessons.  I also participate on local boards.  Although I have only been living in the metropolitan Atlanta area for less than two years I am a proud board member of the Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA. I have also joined my colleagues in the Kaiser Permanente African American Professional Association business resource group in supporting various United Way African American Partnership events.
 

AAP: AAP is building libraries where youth play and learn, what is your favorite book and why?

Michael: The Game of Life and How to Play It, by Florence Scovel Shinn.  It’s one of the more recent books that I’ve read.  It is a short book, less than 100 pages.  It is filled with messages about thinking and speaking positively.  The simple and powerful messages in the book apply to anyone, at any age, and any stage in life.  I recommend it to anyone who wants a positive mindset.

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership was formed in 2000 after Dr. Johnnetta Cole saw there wasn’t enough leadership positions for African-Americans in Greater Atlanta, AAP Director Bryan Vinson said.

Since its formation, AAP has garnered more than 1,000 members and raised $2.2 million annually for United Way.

AAP is made up of donors with similar ideas in regard to giving, leadership and service. It was created to bring together United Way donors who were underrepresented, and in its first five years, AAP realized a 75-percent membership increase because of partnerships with previously unreached groups. It is a place for African-Americans to make a personal connection and volunteer in a way to personally meet the needs of program recipients.

“Our signature cause is powering the potential of African-American boys and young men toward academic achievement,” Vinson said. “We saw that our women’s groups had a lot of success with focusing on a specific cause, and they were able to pass a statewide amendment, so that became a model for other groups.

“So, we partnered with the [Community Engagement] department to make sure we were in line with where United Way was going.”

Looking at compiled data, Vinson said African-American boys and young men were “pulling up the rear” with graduation rates, truancy and test scores.

“This was something that was attractive to us to provide a bridge where we could have a significant impact,” Vinson said. “There was a real gap for adolescent students, and so that was where we started to make our mark.”

AAP worked first to equip five schools with after school-type activities they called “Build a Library,” Vinson said. AAP provided fiction and non-fiction books, as well as books on finance and wealth management and all types of arts and science literature.

“Our big push was to make it fun and exciting,” Vinson said. “We wanted them to do art projects and go on field trips, keep journals—some of the programs have even written and published their own manuscripts.”

Vinson said they used donor dollars to bring iPads, bookshelves and booths to create an engaging academic space. He said the participation varies depending on the space, but the results were tangible. Young men became more proficient in using technology and became exposed to different potential career paths, as well.

Since 2016, they’ve raised $150,000 to fund seven library sites.

“It became about career exposure and how do we continue to broaden their perspective on what careers are possible,” he said. “Not everybody is going to be an athlete or a musician, so it’s about exposing them to 100 different professionals with 100 different careers, so they can begin to think about whether or not this is the correct field for them.”

On Nov. 8, AAP hosted its fourth annual “Mentoring Our Youth” event, which was a volunteer event aimed at students of Price Middle School and Carver High School. Vinson had representatives from colleges and fraternities talk to students about the college life and getting involved with a service organization.

They also hosted a “mock networking mixer.”

“We had people from different fraternities come in first and talk about college. For the second part, they get to interact and network with people,” said Stephanie Gloster, AAP Cabinet chair.

Vinson said this was “a great opportunity” for students to speak to members and hear success stories they can relate to.

AAP member Rolanda Wheeler said it’s important to share these success stories with these young students.

“I think mentoring children is very important because they are the future generation that are going to be important,” Wheeler, who was at her first volunteer event with AAP in Atlanta, said. “This gives us the chance to give them advice and share our stories with them. Children and teens may struggle sometimes, and we’ve had struggles already. We can talk to them and inspire them to pursue their dreams.”

To find out more about AAP and how to join, email AAP@unitedwayatlanta.org or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

“I am joined by a talented team of Atlanta’s top executives on the United Way of Greater Atlanta African-American Partnership Cabinet. This year, we are 22 cabinet members strong, including nine new members as a result of our spring application process.

I was amazed by the creative energy and sound counsel at our July retreat. These leaders freely give of their time and expertise for the good of the community. View the 2018-2019 AAP Cabinet photo roster here.

We have an amazing year in store for our members with engagement opportunities that will allow you to learn more about Greater Atlanta’s community opportunities while achieving your individual philanthropic goals. Please follow AAP on Facebook and Instagram for the latest details about our upcoming events.

Lastly, if your company has an African-American Business/Employee Resource Group, we would appreciate the opportunity to present information about AAP at one of your fall meetings in conjunction with the United Way campaign. Please contact aap@unitedwayatlanta.org for more details. 

Thank you all for your commitment to making a difference in our local community!”

Kind regards,
Stephanie Gloster
Digital Business Integration Consultant, Accenture Applied Intelligence
AAP Cabinet Chair