To all Detroit Public Schools alumni who are considering giving back through the Foundation, I want you to know that if I can do it, you can too.

I graduated from Cody High in 1986, going on to get a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University, which I attended on a football scholarship, and later a master’s from Central Michigan University. My career in business includes nine years at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Michigan and today at Polk, where I head the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

In recent years, I’ve taken a macro-level approach to helping DPS and its students. I have lent my business experience in meeting with Roy Roberts and DPS executive leadership to develop programs that I think have helped them improve and implement new processes.

I have also been blessed to help the Foundation consider new ideas on how to support schools, including Cody.

As a volunteer, I am committed to helping students learn how to make a good first impression, with their handshake, dress and verbal skills.  For example, I teach that all young men should wear a belt, unless they are in a gym, to hold their pants up around their waist. A tie should be tied up around your neck, not worn as a necklace. All students should dress neatly, with clean clothes. Taking care of yourself shows that you have the potential to take care of someone’s business. Many of the students I talk to about this are juniors and seniors at DPS.

If I can do this, in my limited time, then you can to. What I tell my fellow alumni is instead of standing on the sidelines, throwing boulders at the administration, contribute a pebble of support. Those pebbles will gather and combine to build a better DPS.

Ask yourself what are my strengths? What do I have to offer? What time do I have? How can I use my skills to help students where I grew up? What can I ask my company to do? How can I impact the change I want to see?

Even if you just show up and talk to some students, you can make a difference. More than 25 years later, my high school teammates and I will never forget when Donald Anderson, a former NFL player, from our school came to visit us.  You don’t have to be a football player to make an impression on kids. Just tell them how you accomplished your dreams and they will remember it.