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YWCA's 21 Day Challenge leaves lasting impact on area leaders

JumpStart CEO Ray Leach has been a longtime supporter of the initiative, not only taking the challenge himself, but encouraging his team to do so as well

CLEVELAND — The YWCA Greater Cleveland’s "21-Day Challenge” asks participants to become aware of how structural racism is present in everyday life and help them build a daily habit of confronting their own biases.

Many Cleveland business leaders have participated in the challenge in years past, and have implemented new programs and policies as a result. JumpStart Inc CEO Ray Leach is among its early supporters.

"I’ve been an early adopter, someone who’s been involved in the initiative over the last handful of years, both as an individual to enhance my understanding on these issues and challenges, but also as a community leader," Leach said.

JumpStart is an entrepreneurial-based organization that supports diversity in business. Leach took the challenge himself, and has brought in members of his team to do it too.

"It’s really important for leaders at JumpStart and organizations doing this work to have a much better, deeper, stronger, appreciation and understanding of the challenges of what it means to be Black in Cleveland and in America," he explained.

Since 2018, for 21 days each March, participants are presented with challenges, like reading an article, listening to a podcast, investing in racial equity and social justice development, or reflecting on personal experiences. The challenges are designed to help participants discover how racial injustice and social injustice impact the community.

"I knew there was so much I needed to learn as a white male in our society in general," Leach said.

That’s why the 21-Day Challenge spoke to Leach as a way to connect with one another, and identify ways to dismantle racism and other forms of discrimination. Over 3,500 participants across the country took the challenge last year, with even more signing up this year. 

Leach knows he may not look the part of someone interested in a challenge to advance racial justice and understanding… but, he says, this challenge is for everyone.

"Yes I am a white middle-aged Clevelander and as someone who is really focused on the economic vitality of the city and country, obviously a huge percentage of our country is represented by Black Americans… and their success is both my individual and our collective success."

So, what did Leach learn from taking the 21-Day Challenge? He told 3News that he got a much better set of insights and understandings of the issues and challenges of black Americans related to economic development.

"It gave me an opportunity to do a deep dive across a very broad section of content that could inform myself, my thinking... I knew that the insights and understandings that the 21-Day Challenge develops and builds would accelerate JumpStart’s success."

WKYC Studios is the media partner for the YWCA’s 21-Day Challenge. The program is free. Register by clicking here.

Editor's Note: The below video aired on March 2, 2021