David Plyer, founder and chief executive of Gleneagles Group LLC in Atlanta, received the Mentoring Excellence Award for his work with Atlanta Youth Academy, an inner-city Christian school.
Mr. Plyler created a challenging leadership development program for students in their final two years at the academy, which students attend from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
On most Friday mornings during the 11 months that AYA holds school, Mr. Plyler comes in to teach students about managing projects, working as a team, leadership and career options.
He also brings in speakers, and though the focus is on economics and the stock market, they represent a wide spectrum of professions.
“The goal is to potentially strike a nerve with them and have them say, "I really think that's interesting, and I think I have a talent there,'” Mr. Plyler said recently.
Eighth-grade students take on community service projects as well as other assignments, such as managing a mock investment fund and evaluating which charities are worthy of donations.
“It's been amazing to me how savvy seventh- and eighth-graders can be,” Mr. Plyler said.” If you give them responsibility, they will respond. They have rekindled my spirit about middle-school kids.”
Mr. Plyler chose to volunteer at the 16-year-old AYA six years ago, after he and his wife conducted a search for Atlanta charities that supported their passions for education and their Christian faith.
Each year, one of the students in the program is selected to serve a one-month summer internship at Mr. Plyler's firm.
When the first student selected for the internship received his first $200 paycheck, the boy told Mr. Plyler that he planned to use it to buy school supplies for his sister, also a student AYA, and to help pay for a dedicated domain name for the school.
“Now, that's what it's all about,” Mr. Plyler said, referring to the student's giving nature.