David Plyler

Mentoring Excellence Award

Atlanta Youth Academy

Gleneagles Group

BNY Mellon

Kids are more ready to take on responsibility than most adults think, said David Plyler, chief executive of Gleneagles Group in Atlanta.

To that end, he created the demanding Leadership 101 program for the Atlanta Youth Academy, an inner-city Christian school.

“This young generation is very media-sensitive and focused on instant gratification. We teach them about patience, goal- setting, staying on task, and achievement,” he said.

The year-long academic program is based on weekly visits from mentors who teach seventh- and eighth- graders about leadership, project management, teamwork, careers, economics and the stock market.

Eighth-graders are divided into teams that serve the school by performing community service, mentoring and special projects, and are given complex initiatives to manage. For example, each team is given a mock investment fund to “trade” 20 stocks throughout the year. In a philanthropy exercise, teams are given $3,000 to $5,000 to donate, requiring them to research and interview different charities.

For Mr. Plyler, the benefits are broad.

“I’m a hands-on person; I’m not a person who can sit on boards. I like to be in the fray. And it has reconnected me to the passion I had for the civil rights movement in the ’60s.”