Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
During my time as Miss Nevada United States 2014, I did nearly 500 community appearances: volunteering in schools, reading in hospitals and working with countless nonprofits. I experienced a multitude of takeaways and teachable moments during that year. One of the most important lessons was how impactful community engagement is and why it is crucial in developing leadership within our youth. Fast forward seven years later, I’m still highly engaged with nonprofits and organizations that make a direct impact on our youth by teaching them tangible, real-world skills. From my perspective, local business leaders have the power to evoke change and new opportunities for community youth.
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to a group of Chef Jeff’s students in North Las Vegas earlier this year. The Chef Jeff Project (CJP) was founded by Chef Jeff Henderson, a former felon who served 10 years in prison, where he found his passion for food and the culinary arts. Now, he guides disadvantaged youth through his nonprofit, teaching them unique skillsets to help change their lives. What I encountered was a group of young men who were polite and eager to learn. The sheer curiosity around business, entrepreneurship and the skills that school doesn’t traditionally teach you was incredibly encouraging to see.
Another example of a nonprofit making a strong community impact is Beats Not Bullets (BNB). I was introduced to this charity organization through one of their program coordinators, Rich Croce, better known as rapper MC Bravado. I follow MC Bravado on Instagram and was so intrigued when I saw his posts about being a teacher (in addition to having a successful music career) and his passion for teaching the music industry to teenagers from challenging circumstances. Beats Not Bullets is a youth internship organization based in Baltimore that teaches teens in cohorts life skills and lessons. They teach these teens tangible elements of the music business: songwriting, production and mixing. Importantly, BNB also exposes them to critical skills needed in artist development like media training and branding.
Especially in 2021, it’s easy for most of us to get caught up in the day-to-day and minutiae of our lives: work, running a business, maintaining a household, etc. We must stay focused on continuing to invest in our neighborhoods and supporting local organizations that are truly out there doing the face-to-face work to better our youth and communities. As leaders in our communities, we have the distinct opportunity to share our expertise and offer local youth the chance to learn industry-specific skills.
Based on my experience, the best way for business leaders to be of value is to get out there and get engaged in the community. Entrepreneurs and brand leaders are well-positioned to offer youth entrepreneurial opportunities to help hone their industry skills. Here are some ways to get involved:
• Seek out local nonprofits that foster entrepreneurship and are finding unique and creative ways to teach youth tangible skills.
• Consider how you can leverage your expertise and industry knowledge to help guide local youth to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities they may not have access to otherwise.
• Actively support by volunteering or utilizing the resources you have available to you.
• If you have an office or retail space, consider serving as a drop-off point for materials these nonprofits may need, or use the space to host a class or gathering on their behalf.
• Use the power of social media to bring positive attention to the work local organizations are doing. A simple share can go a long way.
Teaching tangible skills and fostering a pathway of entrepreneurship has proven to be a recipe for success, especially in reaching youth from the most disadvantaged situations. It’s never too early to invest in and help develop our future leaders. Seek out nonprofits that are doing great work in your community and volunteer your time to pave the way for future generations.