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The business of social responsibility


Youth About Business-Memphis hosted an event at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital that accomplished two goals – giving back to the community and generating social responsibility through literacy. by Dorothy Bracy Alston
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Jordan Bedford
Jordan Bedford

Jordan Bedford is being groomed to become a corporate executive. He and others participating in Youth About Business-Memphis already have learned the important lesson of corporate social responsibility.

On Sunday (Feb. 20), the lesson learned was on display at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital as YAB-Memphis hosted an event that accomplished two goals – giving back to the community and generating social responsibility through literacy.

With the hospital’s patients in mind – particularly those from the ages of 11 to 17 – Bedford and other future execs delivered and read from a shipment of books donated to the group for just such an enterprise.

LeBonheur patient Frederick Hudson, 6, reviews “Good Night Gorilla,” which he vowed to read to his 2-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister. Hudson, who was being treated for a high fever and pneumonia, also suffers with sickle cell anemia. His mother, Yadah Handy, said, “We love it here. He has been coming since he was a baby.” (Photos by Shirley Jackson)

Youth About Business-Memphis participant Samuel Hope Ross, 18, who has sickle cell anemia, shared his story. Also pictured, Belinda Campbell, Southeast Market Director for Youth About Business.

Youth About Business-Memphis participants read “The Little Engine That Could.”

A Ridgeway High School student, Bedford was the spark plug for the initiative. He recently spent 12 days at LeBonheur recovering from head trauma and what he described as excruciating pain. While there, he learned first-hand of the need for books.

So Bedford decided to do something and helped coordinate the corporate social responsibility effort. Through his leadership, YAB received close to 300 books from individuals and business donors for distribution to LeBonheur patients. On Sunday, a room full of patients, parents, guests and YAB participants came out to celebrate the success of the literacy initiative.

They didn’t need to hire entertainment for the event. YAB participants did it all. They are not only business savvy, but multi-talented, as well. They wowed the crowd with musical renditions (both instrumental and vocal), and oratorical presentations, including one from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, “I Have A Dream”. Others spoke about the program’s impact on their lives, and a threesome performed a reading from Watty Piper’s classic, “The Little Engine That Could.”

The aspiring entrepreneurs attend various schools. Sunday’s program participants included eleventh graders: Chelsee Jones of Central High, Brandon Fleming of Germantown High, Esteban Pilo-Pais of Ridgeway High, and Jarvis Smith, a graduating junior of Carver High. Twelfth graders were Leah Frazier of Hollis F. Price, Jordan Bedford of Ridgeway High, Tyrone Gooseberry of Melrose High, and Samuel Hope Ross of White Station High.

These young people are not slouchers. They have learned the importance of being team players. They work hard and know that hard work gets results. They have an aggressive leadership training schedule that reads like an accelerated master’s degree program. They attend monthly training sessions, participate in special projects, both in and out of town, and attend two corporate training camps – one of which is held in New York City and allows them to visit the New York Stock Exchange and become stockholders.

Jordan Bedford’s father, Glen Bedford, said parents should run to the YAB program.

“The children will learn so much, as well as the parents,” said Bedford. “The small fee it costs to participate in the program is insignificant to the benefits. It quadruples in value for the benefits received.”

A bevy of corporate sponsors that are divided into regions provide support for YAB future corporate executives in five states: Tennessee, New York, Illinois, Georgia and Texas. Memphis is in Southeast Region 4 and operates under the guidance of Southeast Market Director, Belinda J. Campbell.

Sam Kirk founded YAB, a Tennessee-based not for profit corporation in 1992, leaving corporate America after 17 years to create an innovative leadership training program to help expose young people to options in business and industry. His first project began with seven students and has since served over 7,000 high school participants.

YAB-Memphis’ outing at LeBonheur actually was the second phase of the group’s corporate social responsibility initiative. The first phase was jumpstarted by London Howell, who represents one of the first college graduates of YAB-Memphis.

Howell kicked off the initiative by sharing books and teaching entrepreneurial skills to students on her January 2011 trip to Ghana. The Ghanaian students were so impressed they now want to start a YAB affiliate in their country. Howell attends Babson College located in Wellesley, Mass. Babson is the No.1 ranked business school for entrepreneurialship in the US.

(YAB is accepting online applications for student participants, as well as looking for financial sponsors and supporters. For more information, call 901-229-8163, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.youthaboutbusiness.org.)

(Dorothy Bracy Alston is a consultant, adjunct English professor, author and freelance writer. Visit Dorothy’s blog at http://www.CisbaAssociates.blogspot.com; join her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ dorothybracyalston, email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 901-570-3923.)

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