It’s been more than two months since I was on the radio and I am still receiving emails from listeners either wondering where I’ve been or expressing disappointment that I am no longer at my former radio station. I have written back to each one of them with gratitude. I spent two days this week on a trip to Florida to do some freelance work for Philadelphia Academies Inc. which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The organization provides specialized career training and mentorship at dozens of high schools across Philadelphia. The group, run by CEO Lisa Nutter, wife of Mayor Michael Nutter, was co-founded by Lee Everett, a retired CEO of what is now PECO (Philadelphia Electric, back in the day). I bring this venture up because as with every person I’ve interviewed through the years, I learn something. 83 year-old Lee Everett talked about the pride he and his colleagues had in creating Philadelphia Academies. He said the Academy was “a dream no one dared to have,” during a time of race riots and division in the city schools and in society. Students hand-picked for the program because of their lack of achievement, learned a trade which became a career. They were paid; they got a summer job.The dropout rate declined; attendance soared and those students on the bubble between failing and succeeding, found they could have goals and dreams that were achievable. The program has become a model for similar programs across the nation. Find out more on their web site
Of Philadelphia Electric, Lee Everett told me while the company had billions of dollars in equipment, most important were THE PEOPLE. He said THEY made up the company. He said they took care of their people with training, promotions and other services. I learned from Lee Everett, that the focus by companies on PEOPLE is gone today. Everett said people in companies today, are just the cost of doing business. We are all widgets; replaceable when broken and eliminated whenever something goes wrong. I have learned that your experience and years in a business often count for nothing today.
Read the headlines daily and you see job losses listed in totals. Of course, there’s no way to list every person’s story and how their lives are altered by the loss of a job, but we are survivors. I have been getting such incredibly great advice and support for so many people over these weeks, that I have no option BUT to be optimistic. My work with Philadelphia Academies will be short-term. Other opportunities around the corner. I am reaching out to organizations in my community I have always wanted to be involved with, but never had the time. That time is now and I am stepping up. The Lee Everett’s of the world may be from the past, but perhaps we have lost the lessons of the past: people count, every day. Without a friend at work, a caring colleague, a compassionate boss, we’re just a bunch of widgets who don’t give a hoot.

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