As the son of two Inland Empire community leaders, Willa and Leon Childress, Mr. Aaron Childress had been exposed to great leadership his entire life, and there was no doubt that he would follow in their footsteps. Upon graduating from John W. North High School in 2001, Childress attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia were he began studying biology and looked forward to a career as healthcare practitioner. Nevertheless, Childress’s journey soon took a sharp turn when his interest in medicine quickly began to decline. His time at Morehouse helped him to realize that success as a leader was not merely limited to medical and law professions, as he had seen and believed growing up in an area without a large business district, but that success was rather a vast and multidimensional objective that could be attained through a wide array of academic fields.
Consequently, after his first year at Morehouse, Childress recognized a desire for a path very different from one in medicine.
Becoming quite introspective after realizing the opportunities before him, Childress diligently questioned his own motives and interests as they related to his academic and professional goals. After some serious contemplation, he realized that his goals as a leader were not in healthcare but in economics. This decision was based on two questions most pertinent to him: Who gets what, and why? For Childress, these questions became what he considers “gradual eye openers.”
While he had declared a major in economics early on, it took Childress until his senior year in college to discover what field of economics he would like to pursue. As he continued to ask the two questions that most concerned him, he came to find an interest in the field of investment banking. But, by then, it was too late to receive any of the vital internships that would secure him placement at a business school where he could become a top professional in his field.
Although he graduated from Morehouse with honors, and 3.6 GPA, in 2005, Childress spent two proceeding years of coming up empty handed after continuously phone calling and interviewing for internships around the country. It was rough. Soon a dense haze of self-pity and frustration began to encamp around him and his accomplishments. Backed into a wall where he was forced to decide his next step, Childress understood the ultimatum before him. “Either you are going to break through this wall or you are going to let your current situation stop you,” Childress told himself right before the point of defeat. Fortunately, through the wall he went. His energy, determination, and perseverance, recognizable by others, landed him a choice of three top internships where he opted to participate in the 2-year Investment Analyst Program at Bear, Stearns & Company Private Client Service. However, his journey had just begun.
Even with this new glimmer of hope, Childress knew that he had two years of lost time to make up if he wanted to fully maximize his potential for success. Thus, he began carefully detailing a 2 year plan that would ensure him acceptance into a top business school.
In less than six months, Childress was well on his way to a choice graduate school. In December of 2007, Childress passed Level 1 of the Chartered Financial Analyst Designation (CFA), the gold standard in finance, and shortly after passed Level 2 in June of 2008. At the same time, he began to find ways of bridging the gap between theory and practice, learning to work more effectively as an analyst. He also learned the art of focus, which he describes as the “detailing and executing of [a] plan.”
Intent on his goal to attend a top business school, Childress studied for, registered for, and took the GMAT in the fall of 2008 and earned a score that is amongst the highest in the nation. His G-MAT score, coupled with his rich undergraduate and postgraduate backgrounds secured him a spot at the nation’s top graduate school for business:
The University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business, where he will begin in the fall.
Currently, Childress is waiting for his scores for the third and final portion of the CFA while giving back to our community. He dedicates over sixty hours a week as a Senior Fellow for the Academy of Business Leadership where he collaborates with an MBA instructor to teach financial aid, entrepreneur, and leadership concepts to students ages 10-19 years of age who have high potential but low opportunity to succeed. This is important to him as he firmly believes that his path would have been more direct had he been exposed to more business opportunities at a younger age. “I help,” states Childress, “because I believe that I can.”
And he most certainly can, he most certainly does, and he will most certainly continue doing so. I, for one, am deeply excited about what Mr. Childress will bring us. Because he is not only a sign of hard work, determination, and the power of community within our village, but he also holds promise of becoming a tangible icon of economic leadership for which our ancestors have long waited. And he is indeed a beacon of light within the Inland Empire.
Therefore, when the clouds seem to lower themselves to our eye level, let us look to the promising stories and symbols that demonstrate the brighter light shining above them – for they, like Mr.
Childress, are the promises that have the complete capability
of outshining the fog.