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Business leaders partner with Innovative BR school through Success Labs Leadership Coaching Series

A group of business leaders from our Leadership Coaching Series recently presented detailed proposals to help spread awareness for an innovative Baton Rouge high school that is preparing underserved youth for college and beyond.

The presentations capped off our 5-week Leadership Coaching Series, which features competency-based leadership assessments, experiential learning and individual coaching — all culminating with a community-based project supporting a nonprofit organization.

This Fall, Success Labs is partnering with Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School to further their mission of equipping underserved youth with the education and skills to succeed in college and the workplace. The school’s unique model combines college preparatory education with a Corporate Work Study Program and is part of a larger, national network of 32 schools.

Parents pay a portion of student tuition based on a sliding scale. To cover the gap, students work five school days a month during the school year from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a variety of area companies. The experience also allows the students to build a strong foundation of workplace skills years before most college students experience their first internship.

Raising Awareness

The fundamental purpose of our Leadership Coaching Series community-impact project is to drive participants to develop innovative ways to solve real-world challenges the partner organization is encountering. In this case, Cristo Rey asked for assistance in helping raise awareness about the school and the impact it is having on underserved youth in the Baton Rouge area.

To meet this challenge, leaders from multiple companies divided up into two groups — Team Highland and Team Perkins. Next, they developed and presented detailed action plans directly to Cristo Rey leaders and a group of business executives, who offered feedback on the content and delivery.

Both teams were able to effectively leverage the content we covered throughout the series over the past few weeks and put it into action by concentrating on Cristo Rey’s already impressive strengths and achievements to help grow the school’s profile. These are real proposals that Cristo Rey can implement or build upon to help raise awareness.

“I was really interested in the ideas from both teams,” says Cristo Rey Principal Claire Willis “I think it will generate some great conversations about what we can do to take this away and make it work for us.”

Detailed Solutions

In its proposal, Team Highland — Brandon Bencaz, Steve Polito, S.T. Lai, Brian Hooks and Lisa Barbier — focused on free or low-cost advertising and other promotions designed to increase public awareness of the school and its mission. Group members reached out to several area television stations and found they were receptive to allowing the school to share its story on the air. The group also proposed enlisting Cristo Rey’s students, faculty and business partners to help tell the school’s story in a way that creates a more emotional connection.

Additional suggestions included more regular social media posts, taking advantage of free digital billboard space available for nonprofits and creating buttons with the school’s name for students to wear on their work assignments. “Who better than to tell your story than the students themselves?” Polito says.

Finally, the team also suggested creating a tiered system for the school’s work study partnerships to attract smaller companies who may not be able to afford the full cost of the program, as well as a summer work program for juniors and seniors to allow companies to continue the school’s concept year-round if they choose. “We feel very strongly that the key to Cristo Rey is the partnerships,” Barbier says.

Team Perkins — Andrew Novak, Jonathan LaGrone, Gina Martiny, Brandon Dickerson and Maliakia Doucet — focused on spreading the word about the school and its mission with their detailed plan to leverage the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge and its network of schools and churches. The group suggested reaching out to religion teachers at Catholic high schools in an effort to activate students who already have community service requirements and encourage them to volunteer to help share Cristo Rey’s story.

The group also suggested a detailed action plan to create a golf tournament that would serve as a signature fundraising event, and it conducted a sector analysis of the school’s current partnerships to identify industries into which the school could expand.

It’s our hope that the time and creative energy our LCS participants dedicated to these projects will help spark ideas that help Cristo Rey can build on to further its amazing mission. At Success Labs, our community partnerships offer us the opportunity to further our belief that true leadership goes beyond leading within our own organizations and into sharing our abilities and knowledge to make a real impact in our community.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.

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