STS Enterprise Corporation, which is an acronym for “Setting The Standard,” is a leadership development organization for high school and college students in the Memphis area. The organization is dedicated to cultivating wiser, more disciplined and productive young men and women through authentic, transformative and excellence-driven programs. STS Enterprise’s vision “is to develop future leaders by encouraging them to exceed expectations, defy stereotypes and create a mindset that is unyielding.”
The organization traces its roots to when co-founders Alton Cryer and Jeremy Calhoun reunited at the University of Memphis in 2012. They had various opportunities to mentor young men, including taking a student under their wings who a school had considered “too much to handle.” “We saw a turnaround, saw that he was a true leader and that kicked off our mentoring program,” Cryer said. “We started off as two college students looking to make a difference in the city and we’ve grown into 100 people. This is a family. We keep that at the center of what we do.”
STS Enterprise partners with more than 15 public and private schools in Memphis, which serves as a pipeline into the program. The college work is with the University of Memphis, LeMoyne-Owen College, Rhodes College and Christian Brothers University. Students typically begin in the program in the ninth grade, with STS Strive, and stay through high school graduation. Some continue in the alumni program or move on to STS Elite, which is the offering for college students.
Students who participate in STS Enterprise are considered at-risk, but the term has a different meaning. “We define at-risk as anyone who is at risk of being mediocre,” Calhoun said. “Anyone who is not giving their best ability is eligible. Parents will put students in the program for a variety of reasons. They don’t have great interpersonal skills or don’t communicate well. ‘My son doesn’t have the male figures he needs and I want him on the right track,’ or ‘my daughter is becoming a young woman and there are things she won’t open up to me about.’ We get them from all over. We believe that if students give their all 24/7, they can reach their full potential.”
STS Enterprise helps its students reach their potential during weekly sessions during the school year that generally run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays for high school students and about two hours a week for college students. Summer programming focuses on job shadowing and internships. Students begin sessions with a period of engagement with coaches and peers followed by a meal and conversations that lead into the topic of the day. Students learn about themselves and discover career inspirations with the ultimate mission of following through on those aspirations. Students are challenged. “We definitely breed competition,” Cryer said. “We make sure they challenge themselves, but also each other to get better.”
Students pay a small $50 annual fee, which is meant to serve as an accountability measure. There are a variety of ways to help STS Enterprise mentor more young men and women. Partners willing to donate at least $10 a month help pay for the program. Organizations and companies participating can help expose students to more opportunities in the local workforce. Opportunities to sponsor, donate or partner with STS Enterprise can be found at stsenterprise.org.
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