“You may be wondering why I am here,” Michael Alexander said as he began his presentation to Upper School students and faculty on October 4. “I am here today because MICDS saved my life.”
Mr. Alexander went on to share how his participation in a summer camp program made possible by the United Way and St. Louis Country Day School saved him from becoming caught up in the escalation of gang violence in his inner city St. Louis neighborhood in the early 1980s. The program brought 11, 12 and 13-year-old boys from the inner city to campus for a daily program that included an assembly, classes in math, English, shop and French, and sports all afternoon. The boys were divided into four teams that competed against each other in soccer, softball, volleyball and flag football. Every day ended with time to swim.
The camp “was my first opportunity to get to know people of a different race,” Mr. Alexander said. “It was so important to have that experience so young, to confront racism, work through challenges and find common ground with these kids through sports. It changed my entire outlook and I know it set me on a better path in my life.” Mr. Alexander graduated from Sumner High School and earned a scholarship to run track at Lincoln University.
“First impressions don’t always matter as much as you think. You have to learn more about a person. Judge everyone from a starting point of 10 and let them work their way down,” he continued.
He advised students who wish to make a difference to think of the act of bringing about change in the world like a relay race. “Every time you pass the baton, things should get better. Every time you meet someone, you should leave them better.”
Mr. Alexander now resides in Minneapolis, MN, and works as a Senior Business Development Leader, focusing on supplier diversity in the areas of apparel, grocery and construction. He works to ensure that companies owned by minorities, women, veterans and LGBT persons have opportunities to do business with Target.