When I was little it was just me, my older sister, and our parents. I loved being able to spend as much time with them as I wanted. They were always giving us gifts and pretty much anything we needed or wanted. I guess you could say I was kind of spoiled. As I got older, my mom had my little brother and sister and things changed... a lot. Now there are four of us kids and my mom and dad have to work even harder to take care of us.
Once I started high school and I was old enough to work I wanted to find a way to help. I wanted to learn how to become a leader and I wanted to make sure that my little brother and sister got to have the same opportunities and privileges that I had at their age. I knew that I needed to figure out how to make my own money and how to manage it too.
That’s when I found LMC
Some friends of mine told me about the Intern & Leadership program at Lookout Mountain Conservancy and I thought it sounded like a good opportunity. I will never forget my first week out on the mountain. See, I played football already and I thought I was in really good shape but man, I was out there sweatin’! There is just something different about working in the heat than playing in it. But after I made it through my volunteer hours I was hooked. I was already making new friends and I could tell that the work I was doing was important. At the end of the day, I was tired, but I felt good.
I definitely had one or two hiccups that first summer. To be honest, I have had a few hiccups since I started. No matter how much I wanted to prove myself I just kept getting in my own way. I got into it with other interns over petty issues. When it’s hot outside it’s easy to let things get the best of you but that isn’t an excuse. I learned right away that although I wanted to be a leader, I wasn’t quite ready.
At one point I was even demoted to a white shirt, which is the same thing as starting all over again. It didn’t feel good to wear a shirt that meant I was outranked by brand new interns. I think that was the turning point for me. I needed to be patient, watch my peers, and learn. I was ready to take on the responsibility of owning my actions and becoming a leader.
That’s the thing about the program. It makes you realize how important it is to be part of a team, to be able to work with all kinds of people (even ones you might not like or agree with) and that everyone has something they are good at.
Becoming the man I was meant to be
I have been in the program for three years and now I am a leader. I earned that red shirt! I worked hard and I know how to use our equipment safely, I know my way around the property, and I know what is expected of me. Most importantly, I learned how to control my emotions and take responsibility for how I react to situations. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to help teach newer interns how to be part of the team. I still have to be reminded from time to time to be patient and to listen, but I have matured a lot. I am a much better listener at work, in school, and at home. I am proud to say I’m more open to criticism too. I can take constructive criticism and use it to improve myself when before I might have gotten defensive or even angry.
Since the beginning I wanted to learn more about being a leader so I could make a difference in my community. With the help of Ms. Robyn and Ms. Holly I was able to start my own nonprofit organization to help young black boys in middle school. When I was in middle school, I needed someone to help me, someone to look up to, so I decided to create Young Brothers Succeeding. I plan to use this program to mentor and support these kids the way I wished someone could have done for me at their age and the way LMC has worked for me.
"When I was at my lowest, LMC was there for me. They gave me someone to talk to and share my feelings with without being judged or mistreated. I felt supported and safe because this is a family. I think everyone needs that."
When I graduate high school next year, I plan to attend college to study medicine. I hope to continue making a difference and helping people and I think that becoming a doctor would be the best way for me to do that. I hope to set an example for my younger siblings and for the young people in my community. If I can do it, they can too!