We had the good fortune of connecting with Yolanda Wright and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yolanda, other than deciding to work for yourself, what else do you think played a pivotal role in your story?
The single most important decision I’ve made that contributed to my success was not to allow my past to be an obstacle to my future. For example, as a parent, I can look back and identify mistakes I made in the past. But I decided not to allow guilt from those experiences to hold me back. For example, I was not a perfect parent, and my son was not the ideal child. We had our share of difficulties, and it is, in fact, these experiences that helped me understand the struggle of families. I have been there and understand that parents need support. They don’t have all the answers and often don’t know what resources are out there to help them. But my journey has helped me empathize with the parent’s struggle and offer a solution. Our solution supports parents and undergirds children with educational and emotional resources to help them personally and academically. Instead of allowing past mistakes to be an obstacle, I made a conscious decision not to allow feelings of guilt to disqualify me from making other decisions. I chose to use those decisions as a launching point, a catalyst to embark on opportunities in the future.
Learning from our mistakes or the mistakes of others is an important message we communicate to the kids in our program. Everything in life can become a learning experience that propels you into something bigger and better. Our experiences should not define us, but we should want to be defined by our good choices. That is what Stats Free Living is all about. Going beyond the boundaries of our life experiences, tapping into who we are, and making an impact around us. We use public speaking as a tool to build children up from the inside out to accomplish this. We help them recognize their unique abilities and skills, which simultaneously builds self-esteem. A child with a healthy self-image recognizes who they are, what they can do and what they want in life. They are also in a better position to resist negative influences around them and make good choices. My decision to use past mistakes as a launching point was the single most important decision and is an intricately woven theme in our message to our students.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am very excited about our program and the impact it is making on children. It’s exciting to see a shy child come through our program with a little more confidence than when they began. It’s thrilling to hear the unique ideas and perspectives these children share when equipped with communication tools and given a platform to freely and safely share their opinions, experiences, and dreams in life. We get to see results like these because of our distinctive holistic approach to public speaking. We care about the whole child and use a holistic approach in what we do for the students enrolled in our program. We factor in where they come from, their home life, their experiences at school, what they hope to achieve in life, and their unique abilities and strengths. Unlike other programs, we don’t use a generic curriculum and award them a certificate of completion when they’ve completed the assignments. Instead, we work with them one on one to help them achieve what they want to achieve. We also support the families to find out their goals for their children and work with them to achieve those goals. Because of this approach, we can help children identify, develop and tap into their unique gifts and strengths.
For example, a mother enrolled her middle school son in a public speaking program I was conducting. He did not want to be in the program, but his mother was determined to see his communication skills improve. And they did. Several years later, this young man has used his skills to speak out in his community and be a leader in his high school. Now he wants to become a professional speaker.
Another distinction for our program is that our commitment to our students is ongoing. Suppose there is an extracurricular activity the child is involved in. In that case, we work with that child when our program can help them succeed in that arena. For instance, a high school student enrolled in our program took on a leadership role and did quite well. After completing our program, she reached out to us to help her prepare for a national speech competition. With our mentorship and the skills she learned in the Stats Free program, she competed in and won an American Legion National Competition. Our ongoing commitment to the whole child sets us apart.
My path to this profession was long but organic. It grew out of my life journey and reflects the heart of what Stats Free Living is all about. Our program encourages children to recognize and embrace their unique talents, skills, and strengths. That is where my journey began. As a child, I was direct, perceptive, and persuasive. I enjoyed speaking to others and often imagined myself standing in front of an imaginary podium, talking to a crowd of imaginary people.
Unfortunately, I was not taught communication skills, so I often said the wrong thing at the wrong time, even though it was to the right people., Naturally, I was reprimanded. But that correction without instruction on how to effectively express myself taught me to suppress these gifts, and I became silent. The inability to express who I was caused me to lose touch with myself and eventually my voice. When you lose who you are, it is much easier to adopt others’ views of you and become something you are not. That is what happened to me. I developed academically, professionally, and socially, but I wasn’t focused on my unique abilities, specifically public speaking. However, I’d always been an advocate at heart, fighting for the ‘little guy.’ After having a “deer in the headlight” experience at one of these advocacy events, I joined a public speaking organization to improve my speaking skills. I was determined never to let that happen again. As a result of joining that organization, my skills improved, and I found my voice again.
The path I took in life, combined with the impact of public speaking on me personally, was the catalyst for launching this business. Our programs assure parents that their child is learning how to recognize their unique gifts, talents, and strengths. The child is also being taught how to leverage this awareness (along with their improved reading and analytical skills this program helps to develop) to do better in school, have stronger self-confidence, and make better life choices.
I’ve learned many lessons along the way, but two stand out. The first lesson is the importance of taking risk. Although we don’t always know what’s ahead of us, sometimes the best things in life come from taking a risk. There was a time when I would not do something until I knew exactly how it would turn out. But that was a boring way to live. Launching Stats Free Living engaged me more in taking risks and showed me the excitement behind it. It also opened doors of opportunity that would not have opened if I had not taken a chance. We try to communicate this to the kids in our program as we work with them to develop a sense of center. Knowing who they are, feeling confident about their abilities and skills, and learning how to effectively communicate that to others make them more willing to take risks. It helps them to recognize opportunities they otherwise would not have identified. And, as they take advantage of these opportunities, they see the trajectory of their lives change.
The second lesson that stands out is the importance of vision. One of the quotes we use in our program comes from Jesse Duplantis about vision. He said, “I need to see where I am going to know when I get there.” As an entrepreneur, it is critical to see where you are going. It is an internal measuring tool that helps you keep everything in your life and business in perspective. But vision must be crystal clear. Lack of vision or an unclear vision can result in many problems impacting you and, ultimately, your clients. A clear vision, however, keeps you centered and on track. The importance of vision is not limited to entrepreneurs. It is also something we talk about in our program, as referenced in the quote mentioned earlier. If a child has a sense of who they are, they naturally begin to dream. Kids are imaginative, and when they recognize and appreciate who they are, they can dream big. Having a child with dreams about their future shifts some pressure off the parent from needing to micromanage their child all the time. When a child understands the consequences of certain choices on their dreams, they are more motivated to make right choices. Of course, children always need guidance. But positive self-motivation is a big plus.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would introduce my friend to some of the sights and sounds that make Atlanta unique as well as the variety of flavors. And since cost will not be an obstacle, our itinerary would be as follows:
DAY ONE (2 days at this location) AM Calloway Gardens (Pine Mountain, GA) – Enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of the Butterfly Festival. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the various gardens before relaxing on the beach.
PM End the day with dinner at the Piedmont Dining Room.
DAY TWO AM Calloway Gardens – Attend the Birds of Prey show, spend the afternoon on the hiking trail, end the day at the spa getting full body massages.
PM Evening meal in the Piedmont Dining Room at Calloway Gardens
DAY THREE AM Antiquing Day:
First Stop – Marietta Square Shops (Home | Marietta Visitors Bureau (visitmariettaga.com)- Explore the various shops, spending extra time at the antique shops.
Lunch break at Douceur De France (http://www.douceurdefrance.com/) for the Panini Salmon and the Spinach.
Second Stop – Love Street Boutique Love Street, Heart & Sole (lovestreetonline.com) on Concord Rd, Smyrna to look for great finds.
PM See a movie and have dinner at home
DAY FOUR AM Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride w/ Atlanta’s Magic Carpet Ride Balloon Adventures
Lunch at Bezoria (Bezoria | Mideast Street Eats) https://www.bezoria.com/ – great authentic Mideast foods. (Great Baba Ghanoush bowls & spiced cauliflower)
Enjoy our lunch outdoors at Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna, GA ( Taylor-Brawner Park, Smyrna – Atlanta Area Parks)
PM See Hamilton at Fox Theatre, Go to the Sundial (https://www.sundialrestaurant.com/) for drinks and dessert.
DAY FIVE AM Sleep in – catch and evening Jazz performance at Mable House Amphitheatre Center (www.Mablehouse.org)
PM Park Restaurant (https://www.atkinspark.com/ – Fabulous Salmon Picatta!
DAY SIX AM Kennesaw Mtn, (Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) hanging out on the mountain, enjoying the scenery, taking pictures and talking.
PM Capers Restaurant (Capers Restaurant & Bar – Capers on Main – American Restaurant in Kennesaw, GA) – evening meal with live entertainment.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
To the long list of families (parents and children) who played critical roles in Stats Free Living public speaking programs’ growth and achievement — Thank You! For every student that completed our program and went on to impact their community — Thank you! You exemplify what Stats Free Living is about.
Thank you, Unique Clay, for your constant nudging and advice. Thank you, volunteer speakers: Freddie Allen, Carole Tucker-Burden, Brian B. Barton, Adrienne White, and so, so many others, for your generous donation of time and wisdom to our students. Thank you, STING, Inc., Rehoboth, and Austell Community Task Force (A.C.T.) for believing in and supporting us. Without the support and feedback of the South Cobb County, Georgia community of parents, students, and fellow advocates, we would not be where we are today.
Twitter: Stats Free Living@StatsFreeLiving
Facebook: Stats Free Living, Inc@StatsFreeLiving