‘Coach Q’ has a down-to-earth approach to learning
The best way to teach youngsters is to simply help them learn, an abiding principle at Above the E.D.G.E. (Excel Dreams Goals and Education). Accordingly, founding CEO Quadree “Coach Q” Drakeford also is an enthused proponent of helping youth by empowering them to help themselves.
He emphatically states, “I’ve always believed in giving back. I remember people would mentor me.” Coach Q readily steps in on behalf of those others would write off, such as adolescents of the inner city. “I am keen on recognizing opportunities…where others might presume a dead-end on the basis of past history [or] social identity. I [have] a passion for these young brothers and sisters.”
He has been involved in educational efforts over the past decade, beginning in 2005 as executive director at Protect the E.D.G.E., interacting with the Minnesota Lynx, Timberwolves and Vikings and schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul among other entities of consequence. At Above the E.D.G.E., he has, since 2010, sustained a strong organizational presence, promoting such initiatives as Generator School Network, National Service-Learning Conference and Growing to Greatness.
On October 25-26, Above the E.D.G.E. held its 365 Youth Leadership Development Forum with no less a roster than renowned historian, scholar and community griot Mahmoud El-Kati, organizational scientist and diagnostician Dr. Harold Massey, and Dr. Christine Emmons of Yale University serving as panelists.
“Our mission is to educate youth by instilling principles that will engage and enhance, inspiring them [to] pursue their purpose in life.” Among the components are: ALL (Athletics, Learning & Leadership) focusing on character and leadership skills; RLL (Relationships, Life & Leadership, fundamentals of community, family and individual life; and TESTS (Thinking, Engineering, Science, Technology & Sports), elements of sports synthesized with character, skills acquisition and academia. The idea is to implement practical understanding, particularly that which relates to everyday life, instead of lofty, cerebral concepts students generally perceive as irrelevant.
For instance, studying how sending a basketball on perfectly arcing trajectory is a matter of physics, or how keeping baseball stats is mathematical. Once a young mind comprehends that his or her inherent abilities and acumen are all the building blocks necessary to transcend and succeed well beyond previously perceived limitations, there is no holding them back.
Supplementing Drakeford’s credentials is an extensive career background that includes three years as certified international configuration manager at BAE Systems. Importantly, he affords youngsters the benefit of considerable expertise in interpersonal relations skills.
At the State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, he specialized in conflict resolution. It goes without saying that one thing teenagers in the inner city and elsewhere need to have a handle on is resolving conflict.
Further, he has combined a stronghold of instructional skills with the capacity to articulately address audiences as a keynote speaker. He has spoken before Reading with Stars Nellie Stone Johnson, Anoka African Christian Fellowship of Minnesota Easter Youth Retreat, and Wisconsin Maranantha Christian Academy.
Drakeford doesn’t do it alone. His wife, Rachelle, who heads up a tutoring program of her own called Butterfly Springs, is on the same page when it comes to enlightening youth. “We work together sometimes. She is my life partner and there are [opportunities] when our missions meet. When we are on the same page.”
His leadership initiatives detail a virtual laundry list of accomplishments: Highlights are Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) and Processing Alternatives to Detention, an invaluable resource to counteract a revolving door criminal justice system that all too readily fattens the pockets of prison building corporations with the bodies of young men and women of color who might not need to be incarcerated.
He’s also noted for his association with U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison’s Emerging Leaders Committee and Brooklyn Park Champions for Youth Coalition. Even more to the point, Drakeford’s experience conducting youth leadership designs includes a 2009 basketball camp co-sponsored by the Minnesota Lynx and co-hosting that year’s PTE and Zanewood Father’s Day Dad and YOUth Basketball Clinic.
Not every youngster can count on growing up to be the next Kevin Garnett or Maya Moore. If Above the E.D.G.E. has anything to say about it, though, as many young minds as possible will receive the message that, as long as they draw on their own strengths, nothing stands between them and succeeding in life.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.