Jerry Duncan: Teacher and Leader of the New School

I recently had the opportunity to engage in an in-depth conversation about the lucrative intersection between your network and net worth with the man of many titles, Jerry Duncan.

Father, husband, and high school English teacher are only the surface level positions he holds. Duncan also has five other jobs that include working very closely with two of Charlotte’s biggest sports teams, the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Hornets.

It’s hard to believe one man can fit so much into a day, but when you’re waking up at 4 a.m every day, I guess anything is possible. When asked about his unparalleled work ethic, Duncan referred to himself as a “creature of habit” whose past experiences as a military man have shaped him into someone who “doesn’t have to get ready because [he] stays ready.”

One of the most fascinating things about Jerry Duncan is the way he manages to maneuver through power circles and prove that he belongs. His network started off with his best friend, Muggsy Bogues, former NBA player/legend and current head coach for the Charlotte Stings. Utilizing what was close to him, Duncan used his connection to Muggs to gain a foot in the door with the Charlotte Sting as a 40-year-old PR intern who, after being noted for his resilient hustle, was offered to work for the Charlotte Bobcats internally.

No matter how high up the totem pole Duncan is now, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. “It’s all about relationships and that’s what I want to teach my kids”, he states after saying he might not have ever gotten that job with the Bobcats if it wasn’t for the initial word his friend put in, and that is a concept he aims to drill in the heads of every young black male involved with his organization, RISE.

In 2012, RISE was only a figment of his imagination, but within that same year, the drive of his students is what quickly grew the seed of an idea into the strong oak tree the organization it is today. RISE provides its members with academic and emotional support, an outlet to bond with fellow minority brothers, opportunities to share memorable experiences, and to meet positive role models to add to their network. In addition to that, each member also receives ACT/SAT preparation tutorials, college and career planning, which includes college/university visits, and speaker forums with influential and successful men of color in their respective communities. Duncan says he wants the youth to see “there’s more to life than what they see everyday and to be thirsty for more because they are not thirsty enough.”

When asked what was next for RISE, Duncan shared his vision for a building not too far from the school that can house the program when school lets out. He also talked of continued community involvement and vital growth in his young boys.

My last question to Duncan after his hour-long gift of enriching knowledge was what culture meant to him. He left me with this:

“Culture is the ecosystem that molds us into the very fabric of the human beings that we are. Wherever we are in the ecosystem, that’s culture. All the things that we see, all the things that make up us as a race and as a people is culture. As black people, we have something that the world doesn’t understand, but has always fed off of. We are the most dynamic race on this planet, the most ingenious, and the most creative. Culture to me is who you and I are everyday.”

If you’d like to follow Duncan and his group’s RISE to impact, you can find them on Instagram and Twitter @RISE2IMPACT.

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