Above the rim
Youth of Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization founded and lead by Kettering University Senior Marc D. Alexander to help youth develop professional career skills, taps into the University's Kettering Entrepreneur Society to positively impact kids.
Hoops. That's how it started. A game of hoops for neighborhood kids in Pontiac. Nothing more. Something to keep kids out of trouble.
Didn't matter how good a kid could shoot a jumper or how quickly they could run the floor. As long as they received a chance to play and exercise, the program was a success.
For Marc D. Alexander, a senior Mechanical Engineering major at Kettering University and president of Youth of Tomorrow (www.youth-of-tomorrow.org), the simple pleasure of a basketball day for local youth on a Saturday afternoon in 2005 turned into a passion that is leading to an entrepreneurial opportunity focused on not just making money but on making a positive impact on kids.
It started with the purchase of four basketball rims from Toys R Us and eventually became so popular that kids from all over the Pontiac area showed up to toss a few bricks around.
"One day my neighborhood was doing an event on the same day that I ran the basketball program and the organizers asked me to bring my rims to their event. They liked the program and wanted to know what other ideas I had. From there, my ideas went from my mind to paper and now to real programs we implement every year," Alexander explained.
Since then, Alexander and his colleagues continue to refine Youth of Tomorrow into an organization destined to help prepare youth for professional careers. The organization focuses on providing assistance with leadership and communication development, assisting those with the same vision of aiding youth, and educating others regarding the need of helping youth undertake career opportunities.
To date, Alexander's organization, where he also serves during his co-op terms, has achieved considerable success. For instance, 2007 marks the third year Youth of Tomorrow has conducted a pre-college program titled "Engineers of Tomorrow" in conjunction with Kettering University to interest under served high school students in engineering as a career field. This project required additional funding, which the organization recently achieved based on their experience to enhance the career and educational outlook of all participants through previous programs.
Recently, Youth of Tomorrow opened a new headquarters where the organization will hold meetings, house small programs and retain all projects the organization has worked on. The facility consists of a waiting area for customers, a restroom, kitchen and three personal offices. It's located at 1207 N. Ballenger Hwy, Suite C, Flint, Mich., 48507.
Additionally, in 2006 LaKeisha Watson, a junior majoring in Manufacturing Engineering, joined the group as vice president and made significant enhancements to the "Engineers of Tomorrow" program. Finally, Alexander noted that the organization plans to expand programs to other neighborhoods, cities and perhaps states in the near future.
Perhaps the biggest proponent for Youth of Tomorrow is the Kettering Entrepreneur Society (KES, http://www.kesociety.com/ ), an organization that works to promote an entrepreneurial culture at Kettering based on innovation and social values. In 2006 and 2007, the e-Kettering Initiative-through which KES was developed-received a total of $100,000 through two individual grants from the Kern Family Foundation to develop entrepreneurship at Kettering. Some of the activities and endeavors of the e-Kettering initiative include the creation of KES, implementation of course work in entrepreneurial studies, and a business plan competition.
Alexander currently serves as the A-Section vice president for the group and said that his experience with KES "has been wonderful. I am surrounded by people who are in or developing business ideas, which keeps me going because I want to be among those who are successful when it comes to running and developing businesses. When you put a group of individuals with the same business mentality in the same room, you get a panel of advisers like no other. They see potential problems that I may not see and ways to grow that I may have overlooked," he said.
Although Alexander came to Kettering to study engineering and fully expects to earn his degree, he realizes that the opportunity to hone his entrepreneurial spirit is something he simply cannot pass up, given the advent and activities associated with the KES.
"One thing I've learned as an entrepreneur is that you do not let any opportunity pass you by no matter how much is being offered," he said. "For me, every penny is one more penny closer to my goal," he added."
Dr. Massoud Tavakoli, who is the founder of the KES and co-authored, along with Dr. Andy Borchers of the Business Dept., the Kern Foundation proposal that won the University $100,000 over the last two years, said that Alexander has clearly run with the chance to develop his entrepreneurial skills.
"The word 'entrepreneurship' is interpreted by most as owning one's business for the sake of becoming wealthy. Marc Alexander's quest for youth outreach exemplifies the mind set of many of the KES students who are determined to benefit the society with their entrepreneurial skills," Tavakoli said.
And while Alexander is still young and working toward his Mechanical Engineering degree, he's already risen above the rim in terms of helping others through his passion of one day becoming an entrepreneur.
Written by Gary J. Erwin