Challenge Accepted!

Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament

Day 2. Off to The Memphis Challenge! Founded in 1989 by Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde, The Memphis Challenge, Inc. is an organization that helps guide minority high-school juniors and seniors all the way through college graduation in hopes they will return back to Memphis as local community leaders. Not just anyone is accepted though! The applicants must have excellent grades, show leadership skills, and have a letter of recommendation. Once accepted, the fellows participate in a slew of personal and professional development workshops such as ACT prep, public speaking, and financial literacy.

As I looked at all of the composite pictures from each Memphis Challenge graduating class, I

I was in charge of the registration table.

I was in charge of the registration table.

noticed that not only did each of the members attend a phenomenal college, but most of them received numerous scholarships. It doesn’t stop there though – Memphis Challenge stays graduates throughout their college experiences, as well as afterward, to assist them in obtaining jobs or internships in the community.  What a fantastic program this is, and Hyde couldn’t have summed up the need for it any better when he once remarked, “Our young people are our future, and we must encourage them to return to Memphis after college.” Memphis Challenge’s success rates are phenomenal because 97% of the 836 cumulative members have graduated from college, 400 have completed local internships, and 250 fellows now reside and work in Memphis.

Due to the location of The Memphis Challenge downtown in the Emerge Memphis building, I was able to enjoy a charming stroll from my house since it was such a beautiful day. I met with Cassandra Webster, the executive director, and Cynthia Daniels, the director of programs, both of whom were two of the nicest and loveliest ladies I had ever met. Cassandra and Cynthia told me all about the organization’s history as well as the exciting new programs they are implementing. The 9/10 Movement will allow high school freshmen and sophomores to learn the necessary academic and leadership skills to grow into Memphis Challenge fellows (they will still have to apply to the junior and senior program). Memphis Challenge is also offering a Summer Online Learning Experience (SOLE) from June 9- August 1, 2014, giving students in grades 3 -12 the opportunity to master math skills from the comfort of their own computers at their own pace. Can I please sign up for this?

Cassandra, Alexandra, and Leanne (from left to right)

Cassandra, Alexandra, and Leanne (from left to right)

I was lucky enough to get a better grasp of The Memphis Challenge when I attended the organization’s first Power Lunch series in its four-part season. This Power Lunch featured Leanne Scull (senior vice president of investments at Raymond James), who spoke on the following topic: What is your Financial Well-Being? It was a wonderfully informative presentation touching on financial planning for the future. The delicious lunch was catered by Wrapzody Gourmet Wrapz, a local restaurant. There were so many great professionals from different backgrounds and work experiences, making it an opportune occasion to network. The icebreakers started off with great energy from people as they high-fived each other and ended up with a “rock, paper, scissors” tournament (I lost in the first round!). To learn more about the programs The Memphis Challenge has to offer, visit www.memphischallenge.org. You can register for the Power Lunches there as well.

The experience I had at The Memphis Challenge was a great one, as I now realize the

Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament

Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament

importance of the invaluable programs it offers. The Memphis Challenge truly is a treasure in the community, and with its phenomenal success rates, I hope more community members take advantage of what this organization has to offer! Stay tuned for Day 3!

Thank you for reading! I’m searching for a job in writing, event planning, communications, or teaching. If you know of a great fit, please send it our way: jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com or aesamsell@gmail.com.

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