Monday, January 18, 2010

Take Five: Charlie Perkins (Southern Minnesota)

Charlie Perkins began his 2-year term as president of the BDPA Southern Minnesota chapter this month. He takes over a chapter with a powerful legacy of youth education. BDPA Southern Minnesota chapter won the national high school computer competition (HSCC) championship in four of past five years.

Charlie agreed to participate in our Take Five interview series:

  1. How did you get involved in working with BDPA? - I was introduced to BDPA two years ago when I was invited to lunch by Betty Hutchins and Nat Calvert, both past presidents of BDPA Southern Minnesota. I was intrigued with the idea of working with young minority students interested in the Information Technology sector. I was also impressed by Betty and Nat’s passion and commitment to keep BDPA Southern Minnesota a strong and viable chapter. I quickly became interested in the opportunity to add value to something that was already operating well with volunteers and corporate sponsorship. I showed up one Saturday morning to observe the interactions of over 60 young people with instructors, learning how to build websites and write code. Some were only in the 7th grade and it was amazing to watch! I realized then that this was an organization I wanted to become a part of and to help get to the next level.
  2. What is the most rewarding aspect of working with BDPA? - It’s most rewarding for me when I observe young people getting excited with accomplishing the simplest “thing” using technology. They become more comfortable with taking the next step. Whether it’s tearing down and rebuilding a computer, building a website or simply adding an application to their PDA. There is so much untapped potential in our young people. I hope to open the door for internship opportunities, scholarships, jobs and create a pipeline for BDPA students in my community. I support our mantra “From the classroom to the boardroom”. That would be most rewarding for me.
  3. Tell us about a defining moment in your life? - I managed my son’s Little League baseball team when he was 8 years old. It was the first time I had managed anything. We worked hard preparing for the upcoming season and I knew the boys were ready for prime time. In the stands for our first game was my Mom, Dad, Grandparents, sisters, brothers, church members, friends and guys from work. They all showed up to watch my son’s first game. My son struck out the first three times he batted and I was embarrassed! When got back to the dugout, I lit into him about how pathetic he looked, embarrassing me and the team, that he could try harder and how could he look so bad at the plate?!? He looked at me crying and said “Dad, I’m doing the best I can.” I felt so small and ashamed, and would have crawled into a hole if I could have at that moment. I have never forgotten that moment. It was a lesson learned for me that I carry to this day. I never criticized my son that way again, and he went on to become one of the most talented baseball players in the league for ten years and has many trophies to show for it.

    Later, I became a member of the part-time faculty at Columbia College-Chicago. Whenever I encountered a student struggling or one of my staff who really made the effort, but just wasn’t getting it, I recall the comment my son made to me “Dad, I’m doing the best I can.” It helped me work thru situations that could have been disastrous.
  4. Who is your hero and why? - My dad is my hero. He passed away from cancer about 10 years ago. I admired him so much. He dropped out of school in the sixth grade to help his mother raise their family. He spent 5 years in Germany during World War II dealing with all the racial hatred and stereotypes Blacks endured at that time. He could barely read or write but, taught himself how to survive and raise 7 children. Thanks to my dad, I never realized we were poor. He made sure we had what we needed to make it. He was often belittled and made fun of due to his lack of education. He’s my hero because he taught me how to be a man. That a good name was better than money and if I carried myself respectfully, so many doors would open for me. He was right! When I became Vice President of Harris Bank in Chicago, no one was more proud of me than my dad. He celebrated my every achievement, encouraged me to go further and to be the best I could be!
  5. Any advice for people considering donation to BETF? -
    “I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.“
    Oprah Winfrey (September 2002)
    The above quote conveys my feeling about our BETF. You bring your own special qualities to the important work of inspiring young people to be the best they can be. Your financial contribution will help BETF secure funds to sponsor SITES programs for each of the BDPA chapters and offer deserving HSCC students scholarships to attend the University of their choice. Won’t you consider contributing to our Foundation? You won’t regret it.

I hope that you learned something new about Charlie in this Take Five interview. Share some love in the COMMENTS section with this new BDPA leader!

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