In this post StandUp for Kids – Atlanta is highlighting an outstanding volunteer who has gone above and beyond in giving back to his community. Meet Rob! He is a real-estate broker and Airbnb investor, an Atlanta citizen of seven years, a self-described fried chicken addict, and an empath with a huge heart for serving underprivileged kids. Rob connected with StandUp for Kids – Atlanta five years ago after a devastating tragedy, the murder of his nephew. Rob has since served as a mentor for multiple students in StandUp’s school mentoring program.
Rob decided to volunteer with StandUp Atlanta because his own background mirrors that of many of the youth who go through StandUp’s programs. As a child Rob experienced first-hand the impacts of food insecurity, physical abuse, and neglect. Once he achieved success in his life, he decided to give back to youth facing similar hardships. His past experiences give him the ability to connect on a deep level with the students he mentors.
But why mentor with StandUp for Kids? Rob’s nephew was murdered by two 18-year-old boys. Seeing their mugshots got to him. He said, “They didn’t even look like they had hit puberty yet, and I just wanted to give them a hug,” or something. “I’m here because I recognize a need behind these guys that murdered my nephew. They need just an uncle, 17 minutes of somebody’s time, maybe. That’s what this is dedicated to.” Serving youth that need just a little extra, a little more attention, a guiding presence. Rob excels at meeting kids where they are.
The most challenging part of mentoring at-risk youth, Rob shared, is not being able to step in and fix everything that’s going on in their lives. “As an empath, it’s hard for me to turn off my feelings at the end of that short lunch meeting and just go home,” he says. “But I take them home in my heart.” Rob encourages new mentors just starting out to be as relatable and personable as possible with their students. “Spend time listening to them without making them feel scrutinized,” he says, “and learn to mirror their communication style so that they’ll feel comfortable talking with you.”
As well as volunteering with StandUp, Rob has started his own initiative: Sold4Soles. For every real-estate sale that he closes, Rob takes an underprivileged youth to the mall and buys them lunch and a new pair of sneakers. He recalls being teased as a child for wearing old worn-out shoes. The goal of Sold4Soles is to lace-up underprivileged or homeless school-age children for success. “I have always had the gift of the gab,” Rob says. “When I was a kid, I got lectured and told to shut the hell up. But what I needed was someone to recognize my gift for conversation and teach me how to leverage it towards being successful.” For Rob, volunteering cultivates a deep sense of meaningfulness in his life. “I learned long ago, when you’re feeling stressed about your circumstances, the best medicine is channeling that energy helping someone else through their life hurdles,” he says. “StandUp for Kids allows me to share my God-given talents and focus on something bigger than me. Being involved gives me purpose, ensuring I leave the earth better than I found it.”