Changing the paradigm for Grace Leadership Preparatory Institute students

The historian of science may be tempted to exclaim that when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them
Thomas Kuhn

Chantale Milord, CEO of Grace Leadership Preparatory Institute, tells her students, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain”, and she knows all too well about the rain. Growing up in the inner city, Milord dedicated herself to helping others ‘change their paradigms’.

As an active member of the Aventura Marketing Council/Chamber of Commerce (AMC), Milord recently had the opportunity to have her Grace Leadership students participate in the “AMC Student Shark Tank” sponsored by FPL. Five teams of four students each worked diligently on projects with their Counselor and English teacher, Ms. Ginger Joseph. But there was an “AMC angel” in their midst in the form of Michael Leitman, who volunteered his time and energies to assure that the teams would be ready for their first public Zoom meeting with AMC members.

The AMC had three “Sharks” ready, willing and able to ask questions of each team about their business proposals. The Sharks were: Aventura Commissioner Dr. Linda Marks, a former Superintendent of Schools in Illinois and currently overseeing the educational outreaches for the City of Aventura; Chris Ferreira, External Affairs Advisor for FPL and meeting sponsor; and Dimitry Shaposhnikov, CEO of dsXpress, custom website company and CEO of FrandMe, a communication and security app. Aventura Comm. Dr. Marks and Dimitry Shaposhnikov surprised everyone as the meeting ended to say they were each donating $250 so every participating student would receive $25 to spend as they wish. The winning team, the Antipathogens, had the opportunity to select a pandemic-related charity to donate their $200 prize to and Orvieto’s Awards donated beautiful medallions for all team participants. Another surprise awaited the Shark Tank student participants as Milord treated them all to a celebratory luncheon at 800 degrees Woodfired Kitchen.

“At the first workshop,” said Leitman, “the students didn’t show their faces onscreen…I saw a lot of tops of heads and ceiling fans! But after the first workshop, they all started coming together as teams. They wanted to bring their best appearance and attitude forward…they really took on the mission of the Shark Tank program. Their mentality shifted from “doing it for myself” to “doing for the team”, which brought out the best from each one. It was ‘one for all and all for one’ …to achieve their goal. They understood each one was an important part of that goal as they gained respect for one another. These students just reinforced my belief that everything is possible for those who work together to make their lives and this country a better place.”

Ms. Ginger Joseph, Grace Leadership Counselor and English Teacher who worked with the students, said, “Thank you, Aventura Marketing Council, for giving my students the opportunity to change the stereotypical narrative projected about minority students in the urban community through your Shark Tank program. Our students have proven that given the right opportunities, coaching and positive reinforcements, will not change them but instead help them to reveal the best version of themselves.”

The Grace Leadership students who participated in Shark Tank worked hard to move out of their ‘comfort zones’ to change the paradigm. Jimmie Butler, Team Leader for the winning team, Antipathogens, wrote “What I have learned and gained from this Shark Tank venture is not to give 110 percent or 100 percent, but give my all to anything I want to pursue.

During this process, we learned so much – from dealing with those who doubted our product and wanted to give up on us, to overcoming the improbable challenges. My team and I didn’t crumble under pressure. Instead, we crumbled the pressure and our product was selected as the overall winner.”

And the comments from other students came pouring in: Joshua Flores from Team Stokley, said, “Thank you, Sharks, for giving me the opportunity to work with my team and show team spirit and present with each other. I learned that teamwork can help ensure that teammates can agree on certain topics and ideas. I also learned that teammates can help the team by ensuring that everyone is on task and no one is falling behind. I also learned that I need to be more confident and speak up.” Ricky Bradwell from Team Charge Industries, said, “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be an inventor and businessman. I never felt so powerful and famous in my life until this presentation.”

Michelet Paul from Team Safety First, said, “I will never forget that moment and I appreciated every second of it. Even though it was not long, I experienced how a sliver of the business world works and you opened an idea I could possibly take into the future.

“Arhusito Volmar from Team Ban Bre said, “I would have never imagined that I would have had the opportunity to meet such wonderful and powerful people in the community. It is utterly amazing how this opportunity has opened up so many doors for all of us. Through Shark Tank, I got an opportunity to work with the people I go to school with every day. I feel so much closer to them because I would not have made it this far without them. I will continue to hold this moment close to my heart and cherish it because I now know the true meaning of working with a team. “Christopher Bowen, Team Charge Industries, summed it up well, “I genuinely appreciated that you all took time out of your busy schedules to listen and help us, young entrepreneurs in the making. It was a surreal moment to sit with such inspirational people that I can one day aspire to be like. You started the meeting off welcoming us so warmly, I felt like we were all family. I will never forget the meeting we had. It taught and increased my knowledge about future goals and plans. You truly helped me recognize that I have the potential to do anything I put my mind to with hard work and commitment, so thank you!”

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