TWO MEMBERS OF ST. BENEDICT’S COMMUNITY LEARN VALUABLE LESSONS AWAY FROM THE HIVE

Taking on challenges is not new to Mike Steadman, the director of Leahy House, and Louis Lainé, who heads up the Vox Institute. They do it at St. Benedict’s every day.

But last summer, both spent part of their time away from The Hive exploring interests – Steadman in social entrepreneurship and Lainé in international human rights promotion.

Steadman (left in adjacent picture), a Naval Academy graduate and former marine who supervises more than 65 teenagers in Leahy House during the year, was offered a full scholarship to the four-week Stanford Ignite Post 9/11 Veterans program at Stanford University’s Business School in Palo Alto. Having brought a boxing program to The Hive over the past two years and collaborating with Gary Bloore at Ironbound USA, Steadman wanted to learn “how to better operate in the non-profit space and create a bigger impact in my community through boxing and education.”

The program, comprised of 36 veterans there to learn to formalize, develop and commercialize their venture ideas, was rigorous and rich.

“We were exposed to the fundamentals of business and the practical aspects of identifying and evaluating business ideas and moving them forward,” Steadman said.

Participants visited technology companies like Facebook, Google and Palantir; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Treasury Secretary George Schultz spoke to the Vets.

Although the program’s focus was on business, Steadman’s takeaway was primarily on social impact.

“I attended the program to learn how to better operate in the non-profit space and create a bigger impact in my community,” he said. “But walking around the Stanford campus, I didn’t notice too many kids who looked like me.”

So Steadman expanded his goals to include exposing kids to his experience and introducing them to the value of an education like the one Stanford offers and the kinds of jobs available in Silicon Valley.

“I have already identified a few kids in Leahy House with the potential to attend top-tier schools,” he said. “I intend to provide mentorship for them and plant the seeds early for them to apply to Stanford.”

Steadman said another take-away from the program was a confirmation that “we do things right at Benedict’s.” The program emphasized innovation, particularly in technology, business and culture. But he challenged his peers to think about applying innovation to the ways we educate young men of color in our cities.

“Our culture here at Benedict’s and the way we deal with kids is so unconventional to the outside world and many of my peers this summer doubted our methods,” he said. “However, we get results, consistently. I fully intend to build upon the lessons I learned regarding innovation and apply them to Leahy House.”

When St. Benedict’s Director of the Vox Institute and Truman Scholar Louis Laine ‘12 heard about a month-long fellowship program with Humanity in Action, he was immediately interested. The program brings together international groups of university students and recent graduates to explore national histories of discrimination and resistance as well as examples of issues affecting different minority groups today.

Living with a Dutch family in Amsterdam and attending seminars and lectures with 24 university students and recent graduates primarily from The Netherlands, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Greece, Lainé satisfied some of his curiosity about what it would feel like to be a stranger in another country. He said seeing how various social issues affected the life experiences of many people in The Netherlands was an invaluable experience.

Lainé said there were many times when he found himself revisiting many of the issues about which he had already learned, but through a different lens. In particular he had been exposed to issues of sexism, Islamophobia and nationalism on an academic level; he has also been exposed to issues of racism on a personal level, he said.

“What made encountering these social issues even more meaningful was being able to discuss them with the 23 other fellows whose perspectives, as well as their relationship to these issues, were so different from mine,” he said.

- By Noreen Connolly

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