A Little Ray of Sunshine

By Mark Blackney

The past few months seemed to have been filled with lots of negative news. Every day it felt like we got body slammed with something new, mostly out of Washington.

The IRS scandal continued to percolate then the administration finally released some damning, though heavily redacted, e-mails about Benghazi that once again raised more questions about the integrity of the operation and the explanations following it.

The economy continues to sputter along. Despite attempts by the administration to positively spin jobs numbers, we have to read them with skepticism based on the shenanigans with those same numbers during the 2012 election year. True, more new jobs have been created but we have the lowest participation rate in over 40 years and 92 million people aren’t working.

Just during the past three weeks we’ve been hit with the obscene VA scandal that is inexcusable. Once again, some federal workers have acted with malfeasance and incompetence that has harmed many people, this time our brave veterans. We all know that nothing will happen to those workers and they’ll continue on and probably be rewarded with raises and bonuses just as those in the IRS.

Then Bowe Bergdahl was released in exchange for 5 terrorists who will come back to hurt us. After that infamous Rose Garden speech with the parents, we learned that Bergdahl was possibly a deserter. Now we’re in the spin cycle on the news until this too dies down although I believe this was one of the worst decisions made by any president during the past decades.

And California Chrome didn’t win the Triple Crown.

Woe is me.

But then I snapped out it. Wait a minute. I have a lot of good things going on in my life. Why am I focusing on only the bad?

I have a family that loves me and I’m respected in the community. I love my job and work with great people especially our new Membership Manager, Diana Hunnicutt, who has a passion for our Chamber members.

Every month, our members report their good news for the newsletter. It’s exciting to see so many succeeding and expanding their businesses.

We had one of the best BIG Hat Days in Chamber history and I work with a dynamic Board of Directors that I consider to be my friends.

I’m getting back into one of my passions, acting, by appearing in the Center Stage production of Music Man. True, I’m just in the chorus but who knows what I’ll do in the future?

On May 22nd, I heard our Mayor, Lynne Ashbeck, speak about the state of the city and it’s all good. From budget items to staffing to public safety, Clovis continues to do it right. The Chamber continues to work with the city to keep the momentum and the Clovis Way of Life going. The word is getting out as more people are once again moving to our town.

Clovis Unified continues its incredible success in all areas including test scores, Valley Championships, budgeting and bringing out the best in every student no matter his/her economic status.

And, of course, Clovis is the number one city in California for raising a young family. What more could you ask for?

But the best thing I’ve been involved with over the past few months has to be the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, YEA!. My wife Fran has carried the burden of Program Manager for over a year, arranging the volunteers, working with the kids and spending every Tuesday evening in class. I stepped in just recently and it has been a joy.

During the month of March, the students were preparing their presentations for the Investor Panel in April. Every week they went over their speeches and fine – tuned them. Instructor Rod Geist, who majored in public speaking, gave them tips on their speech and content. I worked with them on their stage presence.

When we started out, they weren’t very good. After 5 weeks, they were polished professionals who spoke confidently. They impressed everybody at the Investor Panel and were richly rewarded with funding for their companies.

On May 9th I traveled to Frisco, Texas with Chandler Warne who was chosen to represent Clovis at the regional championships. Chandler is an extraordinary young man who is going to be highly successful. In Texas I was surrounded by 30 other highly successful young entrepreneurs. The energy in the room was palpable as each student presented his/her product or service. Although I felt Chandler should have won, he didn’t, but he still made a lot of contacts for the future. That’s what it’s all about.

The graduation on June 3rd was a wonderful experience as parents and community leaders were able to see the students in action. Words like “life changing” and “I’m a different person thanks to YEA!” were heard throughout the room. It was a most satisfying ending to a great experience.

Although I worked with them for a relatively short time, I got to know each student and it was a total joy. We hear so many negative stories about our youth but these seven kids belie those tales. These are the ones who have been raised well and have a passion to succeed and do the right thing. They have an eagerness for learning and a passion for business. All seven completed the 30 week course after school. Angelica said that the YEA! class was the highlight of her week and she couldn’t wait to attend.

The Chamber’s focus this year has been the younger generation so when the US Chamber asked the Clovis Chamber to be the first to present YEA! in California, we knew it was a custom fit for us and we are more than pleased with the results.

We only had seven students but they will go out into the world and make a big impact. We just need a whole lot more. Based on the phone calls and e-mails from parents and students for next year’s class, we will have a lot more budding entrepreneurs in 2015.

Now that’s Good News.

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