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A former Cubs outfielder is paying it forward for inner-city student-athletes

Stewart’s L.E.A.D. nonprofit is helping youth athletes graduate from high school and embrace college and career opportunities.

C.J. Stewart, a former Cubs outfielder, credits baseball with helping him get out of Atlanta’s housing projects and find a path to the professional ranks instead of becoming yet another statistic in his home town.

But he wouldn’t have reached those heights without the kindness of strangers, as he attests to the support he received from his community and how integral it was to his growth and success as a young athlete.

Now, in addition to working on other baseball-related endeavors in his retirement, Stewart is paying that support forward with his nonprofit organization L.E.A.D., which he co-founded with his wife Kelly. It stands for Launch, Expose, Advise, and Direct, and was founded to provide a path to high school graduation, a college education, and career opportunities for low-income, minority, inner-city youths.

The purpose of the program is to use baseball to get young athletes to the next level, and set them up to achieve not only in the years to come but right away by setting them up to be leaders in their neighborhoods and city immediately.

To date, 100% of its ambassadors have graduated high school and enrolled in college while a whopping 92% have received some sort of scholarship opportunity through baseball.

L.E.A.D. was recognized by Mercedes-Benz USA for its impact on the community, and the company is featuring Stewart as an unsung hero in its Greatness Lives Here initiative. Stewart considers Mercedes-Benz’s involvement a sign of hope for the program and the success it has experienced helping young athletes.

With that recognition and a recent grant awarded to the nonprofit, the hope is that it will continue to impact young people in Atlanta for years to come. As Stewart himself knows, community support could be the difference between experiencing later success in life or not.