Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning

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The Work of Mentorship

Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” So how do we propose to change the world through education? Well, as I share with people, Sphere is a 3-Step Program: 1. Identify your passion, or goal, 2. Acquire the tools to do it, and 3. Put your newfound skills to test in the real world.

So here we are already knee deep in learning…about the construction contracting business, about fundraising, about Asheville’s African-American community, and about City and County structures and politics, to name a few. And that’s just us; our contractors are up to their own learning! However, Dee has already helped one contractor submit his paperwork. Amazing…in less than two weeks, we have been able to accomplish this, with one group meeting, and a little bit of mentorship.

From time to time, one of the objections we hear in our travels is that mentorship is expensive. This is because a lot of mentorship is one-on- one, mentor to mentee. Well, I’ve always wondered what is more expensive – spending the hours to assist someone in an important next step in their business or life, or allowing them to stagnate, possibly continuing to exist on public assistance.

There’s no doubt in my mind what is best, and if you could see the looks on the faces of the people we are meeting with, you would have no doubt either. They are excited, even thrilled, and perhaps a little nervous. But overall, they are grateful because they see that through our help there will very soon yield more opportunity for them and others in the community.

So, if we don’t stand for the right for any person who wants it to have access to the education that will help them learn and grow, and better their position in life, then how do we imagine we will create a thriving nation? Does it make sense for a nation that wants to be “the best” to not provide the “best” education, for EVERYONE? Clearly it doesn’t, and this is why I created Sphere. We simply cannot be the best if we are not willing to help every person be their best.

That’s what mentorship can do, and quickly. So let’s get to it.


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Contractor Mentorship Underway

We are now officially underway with our Contractor Mentorship Program; read more about it here. We met with 4 contractors from the African-American community and Dee is now actively working with them in the 1 st stage of our program – DEB/DOT certification.

While it is a bit of a departure for Sphere – from our general mentorship interests, and from the courses we are planning to start soon – we could not stand by and not provide a solution, when there is a clear one in front of us. All of the contractors we have met with told us that they would not have undertaken the certification process without us, and they would not have done it without Dee, who is a trusted member of the African-American community. We are learning that trust has eroded to a point where this project would simply not be possible without Dee. Hopefully, our success with this program will restore trust and provide an opening for much-needed healing for the black community in Asheville, and throughout our nation.

In reality, we are thrilled about becoming part of the solution for economic mobility and development in Asheville for the minority community. Dee shared with us that many years ago she worked at an organization called the Minority Economic Development Group. There, she was responsible for helping businesses of all kinds form, grow and flourish. So she’s got some history in ushering business owners along.

Now our minds turn to funding – several have counseled us about the monies available from the City and the County for economic development initiatives in minority communities. We’re in the process of identifying those now, and will keep you posted. Meanwhile, we have completed our interviews of prospective teachers for the Sphere Spring program.

There were several interesting courses submitted, but in the end, we have decided to do a “soft launch” for three courses. We will announce those courses shortly, but in the meantime, we have been fortunate to team up with Jonah Goldwag and members of his community to brainstorm ideas for Sphere’s expansion in Asheville.

It is really important to me that Lynn and I are not the only ones making decisions for Sphere: We need a community of people with an interest in reforming education to come together to create something magnificent. It is needed more than ever now. With the changing administration, education—including higher education—is sure to come under more scrutiny. As universities throughout the nation continue to suffer, smart solutions are needed. Now is the time, even if it takes some time to bring about a new reality.