Written by Youth Ambassador Theja Chennubhotla, Class of 2019, South Forsyth High School

Mike Szalkowski with a photo collage of pictures from over 20 years of involvement with 21st Century Leaders.

It was my pleasure to interview one of our exiting Board of Directors, Mr. Mike Szalkowski. Contributing from the times when 21st Century Leaders’ accounting records were stored in a shoe box, to visiting leadership programs currently hosted at Emory (SYLI) and Georgia Tech (TVYMI), Mr. Szalkowski’s dedication for the future of students never ceased.

Mr. Szalkowski grew up attending public schools, and at first, he wasn’t sure of what he wanted to accomplish or pursue; nevertheless, his teachers never gave up on him and helped him shape himself. Understanding the impact that having a mentor or a teacher can have, he endeavoured to assist students in shaping their careers and personalities alongside pursuing his own career interest. When asked what sparked his passion for his career, Mr. Szalkowski mentioned his love for working with numbers; I was amazed that I finally found someone who shared an identical enthusiasm. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting at Oglethorpe University, he explored a variety of opportunities and decided to attend the University of North Carolina. Here, he earned his MBA in Finance. Today, Mr. Szalkowski runs a private family office, managing the family’s insurances, mortgages, real estates, bills, and more.

Though Mr. Szalkowski is very successful in his career, he never failed to exceed in contributing to students’ futures. In 1995, he was introduced to 21st Century Leaders by his friends, who were confident that he would successfully take their places on the Board. Fascinated by the fact that he was a Board of Director for over 23 years, I asked what kept him interested in participating and contributing to 21st Century Leaders; he responded with, “I enjoy attending

Mike Szalkowski with 21CL Board Members at his last Board of Directors meeting in September 2018.

the programs to see students morph into confident individuals and accomplish their goals over the week.” I was astonished by Mr. Szalkowski’s ability to find the enormous sparks of motivation in the smaller parts of the moment.

 

Mr. Szalkowski, in his free time, enjoys riding bikes across the country with his friends, who do so professionally. Don’t be fooled though; Mike Szalkowski also runs for school boards in his spare time and strives to improve education for students all over. It’s truly mesmerizing to listen to Mr. Szalkowski’s inspiration and success in student education.

In its initial years, 21st Century Leaders was a small organization that mainly ran on donations; however, Mr. Szalkowski helped build the future of the organization, because he wanted to create better corporate representatives in society. Bringing our interview to and end, I asked him what he credits for his success, and he emphasized that both his failures and successes helped him succeed, because he learned equally from both.


Thank you, Mike Szalkowski, for your many years in support of, service to and impact on 21st Century Leaders!