Don’t miss out – Up Front

Every opportunity has an expiration date. Exceptional people, communities, businesses and teams possess the ability to move fast—sort of like merging into oncoming traffic at breakneck speed at College and I-10.

Many people I know are more afraid of making a wrong move than making no move at all. Not me. I’ve been alive long enough to know that if I just sit at the intersection after the green light has come on, all of the other cars will pass me by in the other lanes. In other words, the opportunity has passed me by—forever. For some people, moving forward might mean starting their own business or stepping up for a promotion at work. For others it could be volunteering for a new project, going back to school, buying a new home or even deciding to tie the knot with the one you love—before they move on. Regardless of the great or risky opportunity you may be contemplating, consider this: the cost of missing out can be far greater than the cost of messing up. That’s because the opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity. You may never get that same opportunity again.

I believe we have several opportunities in this city and state that will lay a strong foundation for the next generation if we have the guts to take a risk. If we took a poll of the citizens of the 225 area and asked what are the top three challenges or problems we face, I believe, in no certain order, most people would say education, crime and poverty, with an overburdened infrastructure coming in fourth place. Would you agree?

Even though these are all big challenges, I believe we have an opportunity to improve public education, reduce the crime rate and eradicate poverty, but everyone in the community must play a role if we are going to leave our city a better place than when we entered it. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option. Recently the Baton Rouge Area Foundation published their City Stats Report. It includes surveys of residents of East Baton Rouge and tracks quality of life indicators in the area. Frankly, I was not surprised by most of the numbers. However, I found it interesting that in the “pace of progress in our community” section, more Baton Rouge residents said that the pace of progress in the parish is too slow. Specifically, improving traffic/infrastructure (25%), improving education (14%), creating jobs (12%) and reducing crime (10%) were the top answers. This leads me to believe the city’s old motto, “Progress without change,” is dead, and that our opportunity is here today! Each of us should look for opportunities to make a difference now.

Gardere hearts

It’s no secret that the Gardere neighborhood that once was home to college students and young professionals became an impoverished, grim part of the parish where murders and other violent crimes are all too frequent. It may never occur to most lifelong residents to delve into the neighborhood to help the young children who are forced to grow up in those gritty, ravaged streets. But Nancy Zito is not from here; she’s a former New York City schoolteacher. When she and her husband moved here a few years ago, and she realized how bad things were in the neighborhood, she was moved to do something about it. She created a new school that she hopes will help turn life around for the children of Gardere. Read about the school and her efforts on page 27.

Stopping traffic

People feel uncomfortable when you talk about the fact that girls and women in our very own community are routinely trapped and forced into lives of modern slavery. From runaways who become prostitutes to women in relationships with violent partners, these daughters, sisters and mothers often feel trapped and too scared to do anything to escape. But a hard-working group of daring volunteers tries to reach out to these women and remind them they do have options. These volunteers hit the same streets strolled by working prostitutes and visit strip club dressing rooms with gift bags and messages of hope. Read Jeff Roedel’s story of these caring volunteers and the women they hope to help. It begins on page 31.

Come join the fun!

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better—it does! 225 kicks off our second Hot off the Press party of 2011 at Mugshots Grill & Bar in Towne Center June 29 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. to celebrate July’s Best of 225 Awards issue, the biggest of the year. Our sponsors, Tin Roof Brewery and Patron Tequila/ Ultimat Vodka, will serve complimentary samples of their newest beverages, and Mugshots will be giving out food samples of their menu as well. Special guests the Michael Foster Project will provide live music, and you can even have your picture taken on the red carpet and hobnob with this year’s winners. We’d love for you to celebrate with us! Visit 225batonrouge.com/HOP for more information and to RSVP.