Simon Sinek's book, Start With Why, has gotten significant traction in recent years among organizational leaders. Sinek encourages professionals of any type to be able to clearly articulate their why, and then let the why drive the what, when, and how. Clearly there is an economical need that is met through Agape North offering school clothing, but there's also a deeper why that involves adult presence in the lives of young people. Check out the piece I wrote for a friend of mine who is seeking to start a Memphis school, where I detail the ultimate why of Agape North as an organization by talking about our choosing to invest in education as a company:

Upon being named Head Basketball Coach of the Memphis Grizzlies in late May of 2016, David Fizdale soon began to describe his vision for this particular team: Play faster. Shoot more three pointers. Build a championship culture. Memphians took great pleasure in seeing the fruition of that vision from May 2016 to May 2017, where most of his mantras and strategies really did start to take shape, even though the season ended a little earlier than we all preferred. #takethatfordata #theynotgonrookus

For his vision and goals to work, Fizdale needed the five guys on the court, and many more behind those primary five, who would facilitate, invest-in, and execute his vision. Those five individuals had to commit to buy-in to his plan and his vision; they had to buy-in to him. Fizdale's success was wrapped up in the commitment of a team of individuals, and in a similar way, so is the success of so many young people in our great city. In basketball and in life, five is a significant number.

Adolescent development researchers tell us that in order for young people to make a healthy transition into adulthood, they need five healthy and invested adults outside of their parents to come alongside them, support them, and in this process build social capital. Children need people to invest in their dreams, visions, and plans; they need a team of people to buy-in to them. Spaces and places like great schools in our city are one of the avenues for providing this social capital, as well as the necessary academics, to fulfill a vision and dream they have for their own life. This is precisely why we do what we do at Agape North.

I have personally gotten to know students throughout our city, bought into the vision for giving them a fair shot, and have committed to becoming one of five for some of those individuals. My job as Director of School Relations at Agape North allows me to be a familiar face and presence at several schools in Memphis, and I greatly anticipate serving in this role at many additional local schools in the near future.

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Agape North exists to help people thrive through giving. On a day to day basis, this means selling custom apparel to businesses and non-profits who, when working with Agape North, are able to gift one school shirt for every three items they purchase from us. The gifted item can look like anything from a standard uniform polo, a fun leadership award t-shirt, or an embroidered crewneck sweatshirt for the colder months during the school year. My job is to then set up a 45-minute visit for a business or non-profit to see the school they are giving to in order to interact with inspiring young scholars and be exposed to the important educational work going on in their own city, with the gifted shirt being icing on the cake.

Agape North's ultimate goal is to help establish community partners for schools. We believe that, together, the two organizations are truly better. Each week I have the joyous opportunity to show up to a school and declare: "I believe in Memphis, and I believe in the vision you hold up for yourself." You and I do not have to be the all-star of the five players, we can leave that to parents and to the teachers and school leaders in the life of a student. But, we want to at least be on the court playing whatever role we have the ability to play.

Author: Jason Baker, Director of School Relations at Agape North (also, a basketball enthusiast)