Saturday, July 16, 2016

Making a Difference: Tony Mason

As we learn about community, we have an opportunity to meet some of our community leaders who are making a difference. Last week we were honored to meet Tony Mason, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League.

"(Growing up) having people tell me about their experiences, helped shape my path and my direction. For me, it’s only appropriate to pass that on - pay it forward.”     
- Anthony "Tony" Mason
Tony Mason, Indianapolis Urban League with our summer campers
Anthony R. Mason was born on March 25, 1966 in Lima, Ohio (the Buckeye state). His parents, John and Dorothy Mason, both had an incredible influence on their children's lives. They instilled in them to be “nice about how you treat people.”  Anthony’s mother instilled in him a very strong sense of self and work ethic. “In her eyes you work hard and you try your best. You try to be 3 times better than the person you’re competing against or working with.  She really drove that home to myself, and my brothers.”

Anthony is the youngest of 6 children; he has one sister, and four brothers. Growing up Anthony had two favorite dogs, Blackie and Queen. Like most children, the chore Anthony liked least was taking out the garbage. However, he loved playing the game of ‘Life’ with his mother. Anthony, who is nicknamed Tony, loves barbecue chicken, greens, his wife’s sweet potatoes, and his mother’s lemon pie. His favorite colors are black and red.

HIGH SCHOOL and the INFLUENCE OF MENTORS                                                     
When Anthony was seven years old, his family moved to Evanston, IL. In school, history was Anthony’s favorite subject, and geometry was his least favorite. Anthony considered himself fortunate to have had a wonderful experience as a high school athlete at Evanston Township High School. He played basketball, and during his senior year, he was the team captain, with a winning record of 32-1. Through sports, he learned about building character, how to work as part of a team, perseverance and hard work.

Anthony was greatly influenced by Coach Herb Williams, and a few teachers around him. His math teacher, Ms. Kelly, was his favorite teacher because “she genuinely cared about her students and took extra time to ensure we understood the math lessons.” His brother, Renny “inspired me as I watched him earn his degrees from Yale and Case Western Reserves, and eventually open his own legal practice. He set an example for me. He showed me that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. Having people tell me about their experiences, helped shape my path and my direction. For me, it’s only appropriate to pass that on - pay it forward.”     
Anthony attended Miami of Ohio University in 1984 and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in public policy analysis. Anthony then earned his Master’s Degree in Sports Organization. His mother had hoped that he would become a doctor, but science was not his thing. “I always had this bug about sports.” 

For the majority of his career, Mr. Mason has been in roles where sports was used or leveraged to impact the community and young people. As a recent graduate of Wichita State University, his first job was working in campus recreation. This program was organized by The National Youth Sports Programs and sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). This job gave him the opportunity to bring young people, who were at risk or under-served, onto the campus. Many of the students that participated in the program lived in the neighborhood adjacent to the university but had never been on campus. These students were the first in their families to become prospective college students. They never thought about the possibility of going to college until they were exposed to the campus through that program. Mr. Mason had the opportunity to get to know several individuals on the NCAA staff that made the transition when the NCAA moved from Kansas to Indianapolis. 

“I like to tell young people and young professionals all the time, that relationships are really, really huge and important because you just never know how things will work out.”

Mr. Mason began to work for the Indiana Black Expo as the Director of Family and Youth Programs. He counts the late Rev. Charles Williams (President of Indiana Black Expo) as a major influence and one of the role models and mentors that influenced him greatly. Rev. Williams taught him a lot about helping people, and serving the community.  Rev. Williams always said you had to “lead with your heart and not always with your head.” They worked with twelve chapters of Indiana Black Expo throughout the state.

After the NCAA relocated to Indianapolis, Mr. Mason left the Indiana Black Expo and began to work in the NCAA Education Services Division. He began coordinating youth outreach initiatives which included sports clinics.

After a year, Mr. Mason accepted the position of Executive Director of the Circle City Classic. From 2000 to 2008, he and his staff grew the scholarship program from $25,000 to over $100,000.
On January 21, 2009 Tony Mason was offered the position of Senior Vice President for the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Committee. He remembers the exact date because it was the day after President Obama’s inauguration. As the Senior Vice President he was responsible for providing administrative oversight and staff support for the Near Eastside Legacy Project and various community outreach efforts ranging from neighborhood redevelopment to educational programs to environmental initiatives to cultural arts projects to human impact initiatives.  Over 200,000 Indiana residents, young and old participated in various Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee and NFL initiatives.

In 2014 Mr. Mason became the third president and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League, succeeding Joseph Slash and the late Sam Jones. The Indianapolis Urban League uses the disciplines of social work, economics, business and community development to help secure equal opportunities for disadvantaged citizens. 

In 1993 Anthony married his college sweetheart, Joy. They are the proud parents of two sons, Miles and John Michael. 

Tony’s favorite book is “Malcolm X”, because of “his focus on becoming self-sufficient and helping others.” 

His favorite scripture is, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This scripture is his favorite because “I believe God blesses us with strengths and gifts that He intends for us to use to help others.” 

His advice to young people? “Take advantage of all of the opportunities you have before you. Work hard each and everyday and put your best effort forward. Never underestimate the value and importance of relationships. Every experience prepares you for something that’s coming down the road, no matter how big or how small.”
SAVE THE DATE - 9/20/16: "Making a Difference: Celebrating Our Community" Awards Dinner

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Journey to 1863: Civil War Experience at Conner Prairie

On our field trip to Conner Prairie, we participated in the 1863 Civil War experience. Our young "recruits" are too young to enlist today, but in 1863, they could have served with the Indiana 28th US Colored Troops. 
At the Temporary Quartermaster Station, Conner Prairie

As many as 20% of Civil War soldiers were younger than 18. That was the minimum recruiting age for Union soldiers, but many people willingly overlooked the law. Many young soldiers enlisted as musicians -- drummers, fifers, or buglers. In theory, musicians didn't fight. But once a battle began, these kids often armed themselves -- to save their own lives or the lives of their friends.

 Virginia Avenue & McCarty Street
Indiana 28th USCT: Organized from December 24, 1863 - March 31, 1864: the 28th Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops was the only African American regiment organized in Indiana. Its initial training took place at Camp Fremont located near Indianapolis' south side neighborhood, Fountain Square. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Making a Difference: Matthew Steward

As we learn about community, we have an opportunity to meet some of our community leaders who are making a difference. Last week we were honored to meet Matthew Steward of Steward Speakers Series.
Sgt. Steward with our 6th - 8th grade campers"In grade school (IPS #43) we learned about ourselves, we learned about others in our community as well the world. Teachers would instill in us to be the very, very best we could be.  No excuse was valid; we had to rise above whatever obstacles places in front of us. We had to achieve.”
- Matt Steward


The phrase “It takes a village” was certainly true in his childhood upbringing in Butler-Tarkington. Neighbors, including the owners of the drugstore and grocery store, kept 
careful watch of activity, and would not hesitate to call the Stewart home with a report. He learned quickly that It was in his best interest to be on his best behavior because somebody was always watching. 

Matthew (top right) with his parents and brothers
When Matthew was ready for high school he had his heart set on attending Shortridge High School, like his six older siblings. However, because of desegregation busing, he was assigned to Broad Ripple High School instead. After his initial disappointment, he found that Broad Ripple was a pretty neat school and enjoyed his four years there. Matthew played freshman football, and he proudly told everyone that he was the quarterback, leaving out the part that he was third string!  His favorite class was U.S. Government. Ms. Martin, who taught History, was his favorite teacher because, “she would always call on me to answer questions.” His least favorite subject was Science.

Matthew participated in Junior Achievement during his Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years in high school. His teammates elected him president of their company three times, and he had the opportunity to attend the Junior Achievement’s National Conference. He credits JA with teaching him how to: save, pitch a story, get people to buy a product, price a product, develop product quality assurance, work as a team player, and how to run a business.

His first job was a paper carrier for the Indianapolis News, which he delivered after school. When the evening paper was discontinued, he delivered the Indianapolis Star in the morning before school. Matthew's mother instilled such a work ethic in him that it was important he made sure the paper was put behind the screen door or in the mailbox and not in the yard where it could get wet and delivered on time. He made about $15 a week and had to put 90% of his earnings into his savings account at the bank. He worked as a paper carrier for seven years, and his hard work and disciplined savings paid off. By the time he graduated high school, he had saved a few thousand dollars to be used for his college education, along with scholarships he received from Junior Achievement and the Indianapolis Star.
Matthew attended Indiana University in Bloomington. He was involved in student government and found out that on a college campus, learning took place in more places than just the classroom. Matthew became involved with the Union Board, which he had responsibility of scheduling student programming, such as theatrical plays and guest speakers. He focused his efforts on the guest lecture series.
His sense of community expanded even more when he joined a fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, whose membership includes include Martin Luther King Jr., and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. While in school, his fraternity helped with study guides/sessions and to navigate the university process, and he assumed additional leadership roles. As president of his dormitory and vice president of the Black Student Union, he had a wonderful opportunity to interact and provide positive activities for his fellow students.
After graduation from IU with a degree in Political Science, Matthew was burnt out on studying and decided to take a break before attending graduate school. Although he had been accepted to several law schools, Matthew decided to take a deferment and applied to the Indianapolis Police Department. After completing the training academy, he became a law enforcement officer, and has served the city of Indianapolis for the past 35 years.  Sergeant Steward has served in several capacities with IMPD, and presently serves with Community Affairs. He says that serving on the Indianapolis Police Department has been a wonderful experience that has given him the opportunity to reach out to the community, particularly to young people.  Sergeant Steward has been involved with the PAL Club that offers recreational activities, mentoring groups, and youth development initiatives.

After graduating from college and coming back to Indianapolis, he found that there were not enough national speakers coming to Indianapolis and engaging the community. Many of the speakers that he encountered in college would bypass Indianapolis, calling it “Indian-no-place”.  He decided to do something about it - he would create his own lecture series.
He shared his idea and sought advice from several prominent community leaders. They liked his idea, and encouraged him to pursue his vision.  Relying on his college experience and the connections he'd made with the Union Board, he put his plan to work.  He decided to invite a nationally-known speaker, who happened to also be one of his fraternity brothers, Dick Gregory. On November 11, 1986, over 1,200 people came to Clowes Hall to hear Dick Gregory. That night marked the official beginnings of the Steward Speaker Series, whose mission is to inform, to inspire, to educate, and to foster meaningful
dialogue and cultural exchange through an exceptional community based lecture series. The series now hosts 4 - 5 speakers annually; past speakers include former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, comedian/TV host Steve Harvey, musician/actor Common, actors Hill Harper, and Viola Davis.

SAVE THE DATE - 9/20/16: "Making a Difference: Celebrating Our Community" Awards Dinner



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Making a Difference: Maggie A. Lewis

As we learn about community, we have an opportunity to meet some of our community leaders who are making a difference. Last week we were honored to meet City County President Maggie A. Lewis.

"For me, it's all about serving people, it's good for my soul. When I'm no longer the president of the City-County Council, my life and my dream will still be about serving other people." - Maggie A. Lewis

EARLY YEARS                                                                                     
Service to others has always been part of Maggie Lewis’ life. From a young age, she watched her mother take in families who needed a meal or a place to stay. “I grew up in Columbus, IN, and there wasn’t much talk about having homeless folks there,  but there were, and my mom had no problem having them over for dinner and making sure they were OK,” Lewis said. “I think service became important to me from watching my mom over the years.”

MAGGIE A. LEWIS  grew up in Columbus, IN, the oldest of three children. Her mother always told her that she was not the product of her environment nor was she defined by her neighborhood. So when she and her two brothers came home from school they did their chores and then hit the books. Maggie’s mother let them know that they could not get “C’s”, because she did not have average children. Growing up Maggie had a dog named, Sir Charles III. She hated cleaning the toilet but loved playing Family Feud. Her favorite color is pink. Maggie loves cashews and all vegetables, and her favorite dessert is wedding cake.

In Jr. High school, her love of reading was encouraged by her English teacher Mrs. White (her favorite teacher). She had the class to read through the Bible as a book, not a particular doctrine or denominational belief. This was the most fascinating experience she has ever gone through! Mrs. White then introduced the class to the classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, which became, along with the Bible, an all time favorite book which she reads often.

COLLEGE YEARS                                                                               
When it was time for Maggie to go to college she thought that she would stay close to home, but mom had plans for her to go away for college. Indiana University was too big so Maggie chose to attend Indiana State University. During her freshman year, Maggie called her mother and said she wanted to come home.  She didn’t feel like she fit in with the other students, who made fun of how she spoke, and teased her about the style of clothes she wore.

Her mom reminded her that "[I] was called to do great things", and that I was the first person in four generations to attend college. After reflecting on her mother's words, her confidence began to grow and she began to connect with her passions. 

She joined the Sparkettes dance team, and a sorority, where she felt accepted just the way she was. Focused on her education, Maggie received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Health Education in 1995, and a Masters Degree in Public Administration in 1998. When Maggie finished school, her family, especially her great-grandmother, was extremely proud of her accomplishments. 

After college, she moved to Indianapolis and became active in politics by serving in political campaigns and neighborhood association work. Although she thinks of herself as someone who likes to fly under the radar, she decided to take the chance at public office. Lewis won a special election in 2008 to replace Cherrish Pryor in the 7th Council District, then was elected to a full term in 2011  She is currently serving as President, the first female to hold that position in the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Despite a very busy schedule, our campers got to spend
some time with Councillor Lewis yesterday!

SAVE THE DATE - 9/20/16: "Making a Difference: Celebrating Our Community Awards Dinner