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How a 23-Year Old African-American Man Started His Own Business without a college degree or growing up in the "Right" Neighborhood
Article Written by D.Scott Schwartz, M.Ed. 
(The Names Have Been Changed to Protect Privacy)
After a student graduates high school, there is no expectation they will come back to visit, so when Jaylen knocked on my office door, I was speechless.

Jaylen had a question. This was unusual because he spent four years as a high school student telling me and his teachers what to do. 

But Jaylen seemed different. He was several years older, much calmer and excited to ask for my advice, something he never would have done as a Senior in High School.

Jaylen was not your typical high school student. Jaylen grew up in a poor, underprivileged, and dangerous neighborhood. 

Education was also not "preached" among his friends and neighbors. Graduating from high school was considered an achievement to the people close to him.

Despite these societal obstacles, Jaylen was different than his peers. Jaylen was a very smart kid. He also had dreams.

For four years, all he could talk about in class, in the hallway and at lunch was how he was going to build his own car.

That was Jaylen, obsessed with cars. 

When Jaylen started high school at my program, he was very upset and frustrated. He wanted to be in the traditional high school. 

He would tell me and all his teachers that this high school was stupid and he was being forced to learn things he would never NEED to know.

This might sound familiar, because that's what every teenager thinks about high school. 

The difference is that Jaylen was referring to the 21st century curriculum he was learning.

Jaylen was upset because his friends in the traditional high school were taking classes in English, Science and Social Studies, and being assigned homework in reading, math and science.

Jaylen wanted to be like everyone else he knew. He didn't like being different.

But Jaylen's father wanted him to get a better quality education. He knew that every kid that graduated from the traditional high school in a low socio-economic neighborhood had very few opportunities to be successful.

He didn't want the same for his son. That's why he enrolled him in my 21st century program.

Jaylen didn't agree with what we were teaching him, all he could see was he was "different." But his father knew better.

Now standing in my doorway, several years after graduation Jaylen beamed with excitement. 

He wanted me to look over his proposal presentation and give him feedback and notes.

Jaylen was going to present before the Public School Board to allow him to provide on-the-spot oil changes for the teachers in their district.

When I looked at the presentation, only one thought came to mind: "Brilliant Idea!!"

Jaylen had used all the 21st century skills we taught him in high school, from leadership to problem solving to sales and communications. They were all there in his presentation.

Moreover, Jaylen used these 21st century skills to create an opportunity for himself out of thin air.

He wasn't applying for a job that already existed. He wasn't being asked to help someone else. He created this opportunity all by himself.

That's the other reason Jaylen was grinning in my doorway. 

"I'm sorry Mr. Schwartz." he said.

"For what Jaylen?" I said.

"For calling your school stupid," he said. "I realize now you didn't want me to learn the same things my friends were learning. I can see now you wanted me to be able to live my dreams. Thank you."

And he shook my hand.

Jaylen had a brilliant idea. Jaylen was a 23-year old African-American male who was about to launch his own business.

Jaylen didn't have a college degree, the only academic credentials he had was a high school diploma and an auto-mechanics certificate.

But what Jaylen had that most high school graduates don't is a 21st century degree.

Knowing 21st century skills was the difference maker in Jaylen's life.