SHIFT TALKS: Interview with Matt Hanna, Founder of Next One Up

9/11/17

Matt Hanna

SHIFT Baltimore is the world's only mission-driven, localized, invite-only entrepreneurial membership community. Our mission is to create a new standard for business, one where money and mission are not mutually exclusive. We use the most rigorous, holistic approach to personal and professional performance: honoring the whole-self of business, body, balance, and being. We are creating meaningful, sustainable change aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Our members are relentlessly committed to inspiring, influencing, innovating, and impacting Baltimore. And we're spreading the word!

We are thrilled to introduceSHIFT Talks: a series of unique stories from local entrepreneurs, each detailing how they've experienced shifts within their personal life, their company’s journey, their industry, and most importantly, our city. Their stories. Their SHIFT Talks.

Matt Hanna is the founder and executive director of Next One Up, a mentoring program that harnesses the power of sports and education to radically alter the course for boys in Baltimore City that have been identified as “high-risk” due to circumstances in their personal life.


Q: Can you tell us about your journey? How did you get to where you are today?

A: I didn’t know this would be where I ended up, but it makes sense. My father is a coach and former athlete, my mom is a retired teacher, so the education and sports piece were always a part of my life. When I got into teaching – I started my career at St. Paul’s – I developed a serious interest in the relationships we create with the youth and the growth we can provide.

I moved to Colorado to teach at a Jesuit school where I worked in admissions andlearned a lot about family backgrounds and what it takes to make it in private schools. While there, I really found myself wanting to serve inner city and underserved youth. Upon moving back to Baltimore, I took a really hard look at a lot of schools in the inner city where I could further explore this interest. Cristo Rey was a good fit. I began to spend a lot of time looking at deficits in the school. We have some great kids, but what don’t they have? What’s missing? What gaps can I fill? What skills do I have to lend?

I always loved lacrosse, so my initial approach was to throw these students a stick and keep them busy during the summer. I realized that didn’t cover the span of the school year though. So Ichanged gears and focused more on social development, their academic stability,and their ability to see college as a real option – first and foremost, I got them to graduate high school.

Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered leading Next One Up?
A: It’s been quite a roller coaster. When I began Next One Up I knew very little about grant writing or how to find the funds to further my ideas.Over time I’ve gotten more comfortable with raising money and the stress that often comes with it. We’ve had some really steady growth over the years, but the biggest challenges and the biggest shifts I’ve seen are businesses wanting to do everything for everyone.I had to come to the realization that to have the greatest impact, it’s best tofocus on the specifics you do bestin order to give the most value possible.

Q: What’s the most exciting life experience you’ve had?
A: Right now, raising three children as a family with two working parents. Our days are wild. My daughters used to come to all my lacrosse games when I was coaching at Patterson Park; they were always a big part of it. I’ve been to a lot of places and traveled a lot, seen some new things, but I’m always excited about what I do day-to-day. I enjoy being the challenged but happy parent.

Q: What excites you most about your involvement with SHIFT?
A: SHIFT really popped up on my radar about a year ago. I, and one of our young program members who’s a college athlete, met with Eliza Graham, Chris Steer, Joe Mechlinski, and the rest of the membersduring a SHIFT session. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but I got this warm greeting from a really unique group of individuals.

In our world, we often encounter someone who finds what we do interesting and they want to learn more,but then the relationship falls off and doesn’t go anywhere. Things were radically different with SHIFT – the connection was made and we’ve since grown our relationship. Eliza and team are always following up, advocating, asking questions, wanting to know what they can do for us, how they can help, and just checking in. It’s been a really amazing group,and I’m so impressed. They are very interested in what Next One Up is doing, and that’s not always the case, so I’m very appreciative.

Q: What is your greatest hope for the world?
A: My greatest hope for the world is that everybody takes care of what’s in front of them. I think we spend a lot of time worryingabout everybody else’s business that we forget about our own. I tell the young men in the program that I put the growth and development of my own children first, because if I’m not doing that, how can I tell them how to do things better? I want to see everyone focus on what’s in front of them – the tasks and problems they can tackle.

Q: Your mission driven work has undoubtedly made a lot of positive impact. How do you foresee yourself continuing to shift the purpose of business today and in the future?
A: The last couple of years we’ve experienced unwavering growth, but the one thing we don’t have is the public eye. We haven’t shared a lot of our successes with the public because, as I mentioned before, I’m still trying to figure out what the recipe is: whether it’s college test prep, teaching kids hands-on skills, job readiness, and so on. I think we’ve got a pretty good sense of where we’re making our impact and when we’re ready, we want to share it with the public and really get the Next One Up name out there.

We have some amazing guys we’re working with. Everywhere you turn there’s a story. A story of grit. A story where a kid just completely persevered. We hold these stories close to our heart and when someone’s ready for them we’ll hand them over. I’m meeting with a young guy who has a mind-blowing story, he doesn’t even realize it, but his story, his experiences are something that can really impact and affect other people. He’s going to come to a point when he’s ready to actually bring the next kid up and be a mentor. Our kids have a lot of amazing stories, and one day, when they’re ready, when we’re ready, we’re going to have to say, “Hey, there’s someone who wants to talk to you about this, who will benefit from what you have to say, and I think the public needs to know how tough of a kid you are.”

We did an event last fall at the Senator Theater. We had a screening of a film that a student at American University did about Next One Up. We had some great corporate support there like: Kelley and Associates, Knott Mechanical, M&T Bank, even the Ravens, so we’re getting there.

We run a five-week summer program, and this will be our third summer doing it. Each year gets bigger and better. We’ll serve 45 boys this summer. The summer of 2016, we served 35, and the year before it was 18. We’ll spend a week on the campus of McDaniel College. Each summer, we try to align a college immersion week for all of our boys on a college campus. They can eat in the cafeteria and live in the dorms, and we’re going to have classes where they follow a college schedule. It’s great to get everyone out of town and get Baltimore City boys out of Baltimore City. It’s big!

Connect with Matt on LinkedIn

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SHIFT is the only business collective brave and bold enough to shift the work world to transform the real world. We help you solve your organization's most pressing issues, achieve your ambitious goals, and capitalize on your greatest opportunities, to grow regardless.

Edwin Warfield, CEO of citybizlist, conducts the CEO Interviews.

If you're interested in reaching CEOs, please contact edwin.warfield@citybizlist.com

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