Skip to main content

A Day of Giving Back with 21st Century Leaders and Science ATL

Screenshot 2024 02 26 At 12.55.21 PM

At Cox, we often talk about community involvement and back that up with action in many, many forms.

For me, that has looked like involvement in local bond referendums, engaging communities during elections, mentoring and supporting startup leaders and even getting in the weeds (literally) by planting trees.

While all these opportunities represent a way to give back and are memorable in their own ways, one recent volunteer event struck me as particularly powerful.

I am often interacting with leadership at all levels within Cox. But on this day, I was going to be engaging a totally different, and in their own way, far more intimidating group of people: middle and high school students! These future leaders are part of the 21st Century Leaders and Science ATL organizations, which partner with Cox Enterprises to provide STEM leadership program for metro Atlanta students.

I was volunteering to provide guidance, feedback and mentorship to future leaders who were on a mission: gaining approval for their ideas to be sponsored by their high school leadership. These students had laser focus. One student already knew (at age 12) that she wanted to be an anesthesiologist. I assure you that at 12, I had no idea what was, or that a word that complicated existed. These students were motivated! I was supposed to be the know-it-all old guy that had all the answers for them. Uh oh.

For an entire morning, I got to hear them introduce themselves, practicing elevator pitches. Some were a bit nervous and spoke softly while others could take the stage anywhere and command an audience. For those that were nervous, others clapped, cheered them on and walked over to support them. That’s called class, and these kids could teach a lot of adults how it’s done. For those that handled the exercise well, equal support was shown. All finished with smiles on their faces. This was genuine and all too human.

The early afternoon brought me an opportunity to join a few colleagues on stage as we made ourselves available to the entire group for questions. Now it was my turn, our turn, to do the talking and be heard.

The questions were reliable in that the audience wanted to hear about our journeys, and what they needed to do to be successful. I heard about go-getters and knowing in high school what they wanted to be when they grew up. And I heard about getting great grades and succeeding.

While listening to my colleagues talking about their journeys, in my head I couldn’t stop worrying about how my journey was going to sound a bit different. Should I even tell it, or just let the conversation end and move on? I decided to speak up and out.

I talked about how I wasn’t a straight A student. How I had no idea when I was 12 what I wanted to be when I grew up. Some days, I still don’t know! I wanted to ensure that behind all this ambition, that these future leaders knew it was okay if they didn’t know either. You can work hard, have goals and be in control of your future without knowing every detail. And it’s also okay to not worry about any of these things…to just be 12 and enjoy not carrying any burden of adulthood on their shoulders if they wanted.

I also shared that for me, it was perhaps as important that they remember these types of events, and that they not forget to find a way to give back when it’s their turn. And perhaps that was the most important message I could convey to them. It wasn’t to work harder, plan more or aim for the sky. They were already well on their way in all these categories. It was that being a successful productive member of society isn’t just about having a career. It’s also very much about making your community better than it was then when you entered it.

And that is what Cox is really all about: be successful (even wildly successful) in your career, in your industry. But don’t make that the only thing that defines you.

So how did these students do?

  • 33 / 38 youth received funding for their action plans; remaining 5 are pending.
  • 40% achieved their impact goal.
  • 5 have expressed interest in joining the leadership council.
  • 10 are graduating seniors going into STEM related studies.

Now, what are you going to do to make your community better off than it is today?


Interested in a career at Cox? Explore our job openings and join our Talent Community today! 

Related Articles

View All Stories
Cox employees working together outdoors
Life at Cox

Learn About Momentum, Cox's Early-Career ERG

RandomCoffee Program 03222024
Life at Cox

How Casual Coffee Chats Can Boost Your Career