“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
The words of John Wooden—record-winning college basketball coach—struck a chord with Doug Probst, the uncle of RED Capital employee Tyler Probst. Looking to get involved with something outside of his standard work, Doug shared an idea with two of his fellow executives at DSW Inc.: What if they created a team of successful business leaders in the community who could mentor high school students? Not only would they provide guidance based on their own experiences, but scholarships would be offered as well.
And with that, Handshake America—whose name stems from the idea that a proper handshake reveals a lot about a person’s character—was born. Flash forward to 2016: The organization has grown from originally mentoring three students to now mentoring students throughout 25 schools in central Ohio, and it’s a cause Tyler is proud to stand behind since getting involved in early 2016.
“We’re pairing kids with business leaders throughout the community and providing guidance on a number of items—from what to expect in college to things as simple as learning to look someone in the eye and having a solid handshake,” Tyler says.
Each February, a new crop of students joins the Handshake America program with some common characteristics: Each one has demonstrated an ability to overcome some sort of adversity; is coachable; and has an affinity for sports since the organization’s teachings—based on John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success—has been set up with a focus on athletics.
Adults and students—known as coaches and players throughout the program—are paired together, with coaches providing whatever type of guidance and activity they set fit for their player, whether it’s providing an SAT prep course, meeting their families or simply attending their player’s own sports games. The goal? To give their players exposure to different experiences and share lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Coaches and players are grouped together with other duos, forming a team of about five or six other coach/player pairings. Each team is assigned an assistant coach, and that’s where Tyler comes in—serving as the bridge between the high schoolers and the mentors. Throughout the year, teams gather together to listen to guest speakers like Hank Aaron, participate in group events like haunted houses or help out at fundraising events for Handshake America.
“It’s really all about helping these kids through this period of their lives,” Tyler says.
Coaching isn’t for everyone, though, and that’s why Handshake America has other ways to get involved: Subcommittees focused on topics like finance, marketing and website support have been set up, and the organization is always looking for help. Fundraising events like one held at CYCLEBAR recently also provide the chance for anyone to make a difference.
Since its founding, Handshake America has provided more than $100,000 in scholarships to students in central Ohio. The success of the program is what propelled the organization to open a branch in Atlanta, slated to launch in January.
While there are countless memories that stand out to Tyler during his time volunteering this past year, he specifically remembers how special it was to hear one player describe to his coach how much fun he’d had at his first Ohio State game—especially since he got to sit in a box.
“He has so much joy and appreciation,” Tyler says. “It’s opportunities like that which really speak to the organization and the impact these experiences are making on the kids.”
January marks year six for Tyler at RED Capital, where he’s part of the affordable housing group. Born and raised in Dublin, Ohio, Tyler is an avid reader and golfer—even if he admits he’s not that great at golf.
“I can point to many experiences in my life where someone helped me along the way, whether it be big or small,” Tyler says. “Without their help, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I don’t know if what I’m doing is going to provide a similar perspective to these kids, but it could. I’ve had a lot of help along the way, and I hope to do the same for someone else.”