NeighborHOOD Scholar: The Hustle, The Education

Over the next four weeks we will have a series of guest essayists. This week we are featuring a post written by Dr. Leonard Brock.  Dr. Brock grew up in one of Rochester’s poorest neighborhoods. He went on to earn a Doctorate in Education in Executive Leadership so he speaks with experience from both walks of life and I am grateful to have him as our first guest.


Education is a means to an end. Thus, education, in and of itself, is a vehicle or tool that can be used in pursuit of a desired state, goal or outcome. Conversely, many people, for varied reasons, believe education is the “end game”. In my opinion, nothing can be further from the truth.

Education is a process — a process which differs from one person to the next. In the spirit of shared understanding and context, I am going to loosely define “education” as the process by which a person receives educational credentials, e.g., meeting the requirements for a college degree.

My educational journey, although “conventional”, was quite nontraditional – as paradoxical as that sounds. Initially, as a youth, I had no desire to attend college. My initial aim was to complete high school – nothing more, nothing less. I was a mediocre student in high school; I put forth minimal effort and failed to attend classes often. Being fully transparent, once I finished middle school – school was no longer interesting. However, at this “inflection” point, the greatest teacher of all time was preparing a classroom for me – his/her name was life and the classroom setting was the school of hard knocks.

Growing up in William Warfield housing projects., I was exposed to many talented, gifted individuals, i.e., geniuses, entrepreneurs. Conversely, these were individuals who either dropped out of high school or never attended. Despite their endless gifts and talents, they were limited and not afforded many opportunities. This resulted in me having a huge epiphany — if I want to do and be different, I have to do different things and be around around different people. At this point, school, ironically, became my hustle.

Although I was athletic (played sports) and known for being aggressive, in general, I also like to think I was charismatic. I was able to connect with people from different cultures and spent much time doing so. I was learning how to wear many masks and learning how to speak many “languages”. This allowed my “real education” to truly take form. I was starting to make sense of the noise that distracted me from teachers, and students alike, who sought to fill my head with misdirected and aimless information – much of which they didn’t understand, and thus couldn’t guide. However, plans in my mind started to take shape and I started to have more epiphanies.

Education, for me, meant access. It was simply a way in the door. My level of engagement and performance thereafter was a combination of many things that resulted from my lived experiences. I believed, if I can have access, I can grant others access and open the door of opportunity for those who were closed off. Moreover, education, as I understand it, is a hustle. Clearly, there’s much more to education beyond that — I would never undermine the importance, value and significance of a quality education. However, as I stated in the beginning, I am loosely defining it in this context as a process of credentialing.

I am not my education – education is a part of my journey. My value isn’t placed in the degrees I hold but the knowledge I have and what I am actually doing with it. Education is a means to an end…therefore, it’s imperative to have an “end” in mind. Unfortunately, there are countless unemployed and underemployed degreed persons. A doctorate isn’t going to define you. What you DO with a doctorate will define you. Fortunately, the actual process of obtaining your education can define you — the process can be life-altering for many. You are who you are whether or not you have letters in front of or behind your name. Thus, the five critical questions I encourage everyone to ask themselves are:          (1) Who am I? (2) Am I who I say I am? (3) Am I all that I should be? (4) Where am I going? (5) Do I know how to get there?

My purpose is to unleash talent, open doors, bridge gaps, make connections and inspire positive change. What I represent is prosperity, not poverty, despite my “occupation”. Every neighborhood has scholars; they’re in every school and on every block. Real change will emerge when we look beyond the “credentials” to the credits at the end of life’s journey. What’s the title of the movie known as your life? Mine is NeighborHOOD Scholar.

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