Tag Archives: Rodney Smith

Serving Others in Need is Noble and Courageous

RodneyHeadShotBy Rodney Smith, Class 28
First Financial Equity Corporation
Founder, Helping Hands for Freedom

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership

As someone who has spent 24 years in the non-profit industry – as a founder of three organizations and a consultant for more than 20 others – what I heard and saw at Scottsdale Leadership’s “Lead it Forward” competition on April 4th was simply amazing.

I am a firm believer the strong survive and prosper in life, and I am not talking about how much money you make. Whether that is strength in character and integrity, a commitment to family, friends and community, or having respect for yourself and your way of life, to find peace and fulfillment is often a matter of one’s heart and soul and not measured with your bank account.

To serve others when others need help is one of the most noble and courageous things a person can do with their life. To see the impact that 44 Class 28 members made on five Valley charities was breathtaking. The projects featured sustainable solutions, addressed immediate concerns and needs, generated donations, provided introductions and connections that were not there before, and were filled with passion and a skill set that charities are always looking for to serve on their committees and boards.

As someone who benefited from others who took an active interest in my life when I was a child, I was touched, moved, and inspired by the dedication and hard work that went into the projects and what a powerful impact everyone had for their charity of choice.

Some simple truths learned that day:
1. Volunteering can make a difference.
2. Professional expertise can catapult a charity to higher levels.
3. Connections and relationships with other like-minded individuals is a powerful combination.

“Lead It Forward” Projects included:

Tavan Digital Literacy Program, which held a technology fair at Tavan Elementary School, showed children, their parents and teachers how technology can help them succeed in education.

Quest for College, which produced an informational packet prepared on a flash drive and in print that consolidated all of the useful information high-school students at the Paiute Neighborhood Center need to know about preparing for college.

Amplif(i) it Bash, a free event was held in partnership with notMYkid for 150 area school children and 70 parents at Scottsdale Gymnastics, to draw attention to issues surrounding bullying and positive life choices among middle-school children.

Project CANdo partnered with the Salt River Fields and the Arizona Diamondbacks to present a canned-food drive at a spring-training game that featured a pyramid stack of cans, which were all donated to Vista del Camino Food Bank.

And the winning team, Victorious Secret, earned both the audience and judges choice awards, developed a volunteer recruitment program for Foothills Caring Corps, partnering with corporations and other community partners to supply an on-going, stable group of volunteers to assist its mission serving older adults who are homebound and disabled so they can maintain an independent lifestyle.

What a spectacular group of people representing great organizations! Class 28 Dominates!!!

Scottsdale Leadership www.hauteeventphotographs.com


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Are the right standards in place in our school system?

RodneyHeadShotBy Rodney Smith, Class 28
First Financial Equity Corporation
Helping Hands for Freedom, Co-founder

Class 28 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program.   The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership. 

It was a teacher in 7th grade that saw something inside this skinny, white haired kid from Thornton, Colorado that “changed my stars”.  He believed in me. He connected with me. He inspired me.

On Friday, October 25, 2013, I was able to share with my amazing classmates in the Scottsdale Leadership program a spectacular day with some of the most passionate, talented, and committed people in our education system. It became very apparent to me as the day unfolded that many of the standards we use to measure the success of our education system fall into the categories of: the good, the bad and the ugly.

Test scores as a measurement of success, access to money, or a means of job security need to jump in a canoe and float down the river. At the end of the day, if a child feels “connected” the odds increase significantly as to that child finding passion and direction to live a fulfilling life. That is the measurement that needs to be defined and held accountable.


Kim Dodd, Mary Masters and Kim Hanna (Class 27 graduates of the Scottsdale Leadership Program) provided the structure and direction of Education Day.  Mary emphasized, “A primary goal of the day was to inform the class all that “education” encompasses such as each child’s own level of readiness, constraints and obstacles the teachers face, evolving curriculum, and political differences when it comes to expenditures.”  One of our true leaders when it comes to Arizona education, Dr. Lattie F. Coor from the Center for the Future of Arizona, spoke to the group and simplified it best, “Understand the issues, and do something about it.” The current standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.

Dr. John Balles, Clinical Services Coordinator for the Scottsdale Unified School District, started the day defining the challenges facing our children. Of course, bullying, drugs & alcohol, home environment, and social environments 

remain obstacles that our children have to overcome, but technology and all the different types of communication available in cyber-space are also a major factor whether or not our kids feel accepted and connected. Can you imagine if we had to worry about how many “LIKES” we have on Facebook to feel good about ourselves? PARENTS BEWARE!


It was John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Arizona Department of Education that really opened my eyes regarding our school systems limited view of how we hold the system accountable. Mr. Huppenthal feels a holistic approach to education needs to be at the forefront and I agree. As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. A complete, well-rounded view of education as a whole should be where we develop, evaluate and measure. Caring and supportive teachers create a classroom environment which encourages students to behave in responsible ways and emphasizes learning over performing.


The theme of “connectedness” was even more apparent during a panel discussion featuring  the “Best of the Best” representatives speaking from a multitude of education sectors including charter schools, early childhood education, parent representative, business representative, public schools, higher education, and home school. Moderator Kim Hanna of Camping For Foodies, led a very intellectual dialog on regardless of where you send your child to school, it takes involvement from the community at-large to make it work, perhaps “Parent Development” being the most important factor. The quality and quantity of education received by our young people have a positive direct correlation with community stewardship, job creation, global marketplace competitiveness, career opportunity and civic engagement while minimizing the negative impacts on social services, substance abuse and suicides. As Kim Hanna points out, “Education is the foundation of our entire society—that’s why we should all be passionate about it.”

Politically speaking I struggle with the idea that one person can make a difference anymore, but I do know personally that each of us can make a difference in the life of a child. I challenge you to share at least one positive step to engage students, families and the community in ensuring the education of our children?

To my seventh grade teacher, Mr. Usechek… THANK YOU for believing in me and connecting with me. I love my life because of you!


Filed under Class, Community, Leadership