FLYE stands for Future Leaders & Young Entrepreneurs. They educate and empower student athletes on topics such as entrepreneurship, leadership, gentlemanly behavior/etiquette, financial literacy, college preparation and health and wellness.
Like Whitney, I believe the children are our future, so I reached out to FLYE’s co-founder, Cortini Grange. This is what he had to say:
SB: What inspired you to created this specific type of organization?
CG: It came from a desire to want to see tangible change among young Black men. I didn’t want to have just another mentoring program. I feel It’s important to do something today that young men can hold in their hands and use now as opposed to years down the line.
SB: Right. Not just having a banquet or dinner for them and sending them on their way.
CG: Right. I do think there’s a place for that but, I wonder, are we really teaching them to fish or are we giving them the fish for just that day?
SB: So what skills do you focus on teaching these young men?
CG: The top one of course is leadership, but a lot of the teaching also revolves around what we call the “failure quotient”. Anyone who’s played a sport knows you never hit every shot, you never score every goal. But every time you miss, it doesn’t stop you from trying again. It makes you more amped to try to do it again, the right way.
That is a quality that you get in athletics that is unbelievably important in entrepreneurship. Most successful people wouldn’t exist if at some point they said, “I failed at this, I’m not going to try it again.”
Athletes also have to learn how to communicate with diverse groups of people. There will be teammates that you don’t like. There will be teammates that you don’t agree with on many issues. But, you’ve got to be effective at working with them, just like in business.
SB: Do most of these young men want to be entrepreneurs or is there a range of goals?
CG: Their goals vary. We approach it by letting them know that an entrepreneur is anybody who sees a need and fills it. Whether you want to be a brain surgeon, a teacher, or start a business, you are going to need the ability to identify needs and fill them.
CG: For us it’s funding. Everything right now is funding. We are always asking ourselves how to bring in funds for this type of work.
SB: How important is it to you to work with people who’s passion aligns with yours?
CG: That’s very important. You’ve got to find people that connect to what it is you’re doing. I’ve tried to bring on and work with people because they are great athletes or successful entrepreneurs. However, you’ve got to have an alignment to the full ethos. You have to have a passion for inspiring young people. You have to have a certain amount of work ethic also.
SB: I noticed you have a relationship with John Wall.
CG: Yes! That’s been incredible. That wasn’t something we fought tooth and nail for years to do. The person who runs most of his non-profit events was a friend of mine. She was like, “Hey, I know you’ve got young men. If they play sports, you want to hook up with John?” I’m like, “Hell yeah!”
SB: Nice. Have you had any conversations with them around police brutality and how to maneuver as young Black men in America today?
CG: Yeah, we held an open discussion round table with kids from the Black student union and some of our players. We just let them talk. How do you feel? What’s going on inside you? What do you want to say? This is a safe space. Say what you’ve got to say. We always take a serious stand on that because it’s important. You’d be surprised how desensitized these kids are to this stuff.
SB: Do you have conversations with the guys about women and how to dismantle rape culture?
CG: Yeah, We actually have a program “Match My FLYE” that is all about effective communication with the opposite sex and how to handle tough conversations. We realized a couple of different things.
For one, athletes, especially male athletes, are generally hyper-masculated, so you’re brought up in an environment where it’s like never show emotions, never show fear, always be physical, hit somebody hard. Then you tell them go home and talk to the women in their lives and to be compassionate or get in touch with their emotions. It’s a complete double standard.
We try to use the program as leverage like, “Hey, here’s how you learn about your communication styles. Here’s how you learn about your love language and what that means to you feeling a certain way. It’s okay for you to go through these things, and it’s okay for you to talk to people about it.
SB: Tell me more about the youth development accelerator program you are developing.
CG: It’s called the Knowledge Capital Coalition. The concept is that you come into the program as a youth in an underprivileged neighborhood and in two-years time, you will be taught hybrid tech skills, financial literacy and professional development. And be connected for internship opportunities within the city and other opportunities to make money along the way.
Eventually, it gets to the point where we can get you into certification programs so you can be a certified web developer or certified cyber security expert and subsequently stay in your neighborhood. In most cases, these young men have been living in their neighborhood their whole life.
When these teens are ready to leave their parents home, they can’t afford to live in the neighborhood they grew up in because it’s been gentrified. That’s really the premise behind it. It’s to allow people in certain neighborhoods to continue to be there once the neighborhoods develop.
To find out more about FLYE, visit their website.
FLYE’s 4th annual anniversary celebration takes place on November 20th. Click here for details.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson