Written by: Brandon Smith, MSPP Coach-Mentor at Lewis Cassidy Elementary School, and member of the 2020 Leadership Development Academy (LDA) Cohort. This article was written following the completion of the 2020 LDA.

To be a part of the Philadelphia Youth Basketball first cohort in the Leadership Development Academy has been one of the best learning experiences in my life.  The organization, execution, and effort by Kenny Holdsman, Umi Howard, and Tajh Jenkins to bring us together were phenomenal. This program, to my expectation, was to learn how to become a better leader. In return, I learned more about myself and my distinguished cohort.

During these challenging times in our nation and the world, I can genuinely say our class sessions were thought-provoking and therapeutic. Having a place and people to speak freely about social and economic issues while looking for solutions has brought light to my days during these dark times.  This program was a judgment-free haven, designed to force one to think through multiple perspectives. As we all stepped out of our comfort zones, we learned lifelong lessons that will always be applicable in numerous ways.

As a group, we learned how to be vulnerable and how to tell our stories efficiently. Having the opportunity to learn from educators from the Wharton School of Business was a humbling experience. Nathinee Chen instilled the importance of embracing our stories and using them as a catalyst to become a better leader for the youth and our communities. One of the most important things learned from this six-month development academy is that one is not alone on the journey for enlightenment and success.

We were all able to bond and learn from each other.

The leadership academy allowed us to be vulnerable with each other. As a result, I feel like genuine relationships were made, and growth was a part of each session. I believe it is vital for organizations to develop staff and lead them to become better versions of themselves. In my opinion, the Philadelphia Youth Basketball Leadership Academy was the epitome of that. Through six months of development, I’ve gained lifelong friends, mentors, and leaders that believe in the development of our youth and how that can drastically change the future and prevent the harsh realities we are currently facing in America.