(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 27, 2019 a man uses his phone next to a 5G sign at the Qualcomm stand at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona
Pau Barrena—AFP/Getty Images
By Alan Murray and David Meyer
April 17, 2019

Good morning.

I spent the last two days in the South Bronx—just a few miles but a world away from my usual perch in lower Manhattan—as a guest of Jim Ziolkowski, founder and CEO of buildOn. BuildOn is a nonprofit that runs youth service learning projects in tough urban high schools and constructs schools in developing countries. My guide for the two days was a high school senior named Michael, who moved from the Dominican Republic two years ago with no English-speaking skills, has struggled with a bout of homelessness since then, but has somehow emerged as one of buildOn’s bright leaders. We did two days of service together, entertaining children in an after-school program and serving free meals in Morrisania.

What makes buildOn—and Michael—of interest to me, and to the business world, is how they demonstrate the tight link between service and leadership. By showing young people the contributions they can make to their communities, the program empowers them. The first indication of that efficacy is an 18-day increase in their school attendance. But Michael showed that the benefits go far beyond that, building confident leaders out of the most challenged raw material.

It’s that piece that has attracted companies like Salesforce, McKinsey, Pitney Bowes and Synchrony Financial to engage with the organization. With me this week were Synchrony CEO Margaret Keane and Ogilvy CEO John Seifert. It’s not just an opportunity for them to “give back.” It’s an anvil for forging a new level of empathy, leading to what Ziolkowski calls “constructive leadership.”

Here are some words Michael left with me:

“Jobs can come and go. Physical beauty fades. Relationships can end. Markets rise and fall. But the benefits of service last a lifetime.”

Not bad for a kid who couldn’t speak English two years ago. News below.

Alan Murray


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