Christian Leadership to Change the World
Giving Youth a Helping Hand
CBN.com Adrian Blanco doesn’t choose between success and service. Even as he excels as a rising sales executive at PepsiCo, Blanco, who received his MBA in 2007 from Regent’s School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, believes strongly in helping others overcome the obstacles he faced as a first-generation high school and college graduate.
Blanco, who won competitive awards from PepsiCo last summer for both sales and charity work, sees himself as a bridge to help today’s Latino youth succeed.
“Only about 60 percent of Hispanics complete high school,” says Blanco, national sales manager for PepsiCo North America. “Only 20 percent complete college. Their whole family motto is: you go get a job, and you work. They don’t understand you can work a little smarter, get more education. They don’t see themselves as good enough. They don’t believe in themselves. There were so many times I could have dropped out. I’m glad I stuck to it. I can use my life as an example to connect with young people to say, ‘You can do it, and here’s how.’”
Last summer, PepsiCo awarded Blanco its Harvey C. Russell award for his three years of efforts securing a competitive grant from the PepsiCo Foundation to help underprivileged Hispanic students. In 2009, only 88 people out of 150,000 eligible employees worldwide achieved this honor.
Blanco helped establish a nonprofit community center called Escalera (which means “up” in Spanish) in Kansas City, Mo. Escalera provides mentoring, field trips, coaching; volunteer opportunities and other resources for Latino high school students to help them make the connections and learn the skills they’ll need to get accepted to college and excel.
“They learn about leadership,” Blanco says. “They learn how to do interviews. They practice interviews. They learn how it is to be in the business world. They have people like us who come in and show them what it looks like to work in different places. They learn how to apply to college. They take the college entrance exams. They write. They learn about legislation.”
In the 2008–09 school year, 26 teens started the program, and 23 graduated. This year’s program has 35 students. Blanco, who credits his mom with helping him with college, sees much more success ahead for those he is mentoring.
“One of the students came up to me and said, ‘I want to be just like you when I grow up,” Blanco says. “I wanted to cry. I said, ‘No, you’re going to be better than me. When I was your age, I didn’t have as many people who believed in me like I believe in you. I didn’t have the resources available. I didn’t have enough people behind me telling me I could do it. You can go farther than I can think or dream.’ ”
But Blanco’s charitable work hasn’t overshadowed his day job. “I have business goals, and I have personal goals,” Blanco says. “I try to manage all of those. I always want to be in the moment.”
Also last summer, he received PepsiCo’s distinguished Ring of Honor, given to the company’s top sales people worldwide after a two-year performance and nomination process. In 2009, 400 employees out of 175,000 eligible achieved this status.
“Most of my classes at Regent taught me how to think a little differently, how to arrange one’s whole focus not on just being a leader, but leading by being an example to others,” Blanco says. “That resonated with me and helped me become that type of leader. In my company, I do that. I try to help out people just coming into the organization by being an encourager.”
Even though Blanco was taking classes online, he appreciated the opportunity to interact with his fellow students, especially Regent’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team, which won its sixth regional title last year. “I liked how Dr. [Gregory] Stone and the SIFE team worked together,” Blanco says. “I was able to speak with them, visit them several times and contribute. My only regret was that if I could have lived in Virginia Beach, I could have become even more a part of SIFE. I was happy because I was able to be part of SIFE and Regent, get my degree and do all that without sacrificing a lot.”
Taking his Regent classes online helped Blanco as he juggled his personal life and his professional life. He wrote some assignments in hotel lobbies as he spent 75 percent of his time on the road.
“Studying online helped me get my degree and still have a career and manage my family life,” Blanco says. “There are going to be times when you have to spend a few weekends working a little bit. But it’s all worth it.”
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