How My Son Graduating Taught Me About Business

Tammy Curtis
Tocqueville Society Member
Managing Director, Interim Resources Steven Douglas, Central Florida

My son Ronderik finished high school. While this may not seem business-related, let me share with you why I absolutely think it applies.

RD was just finishing 6th grade when I met him in April 2012. He’d been held back two years, and never attended one school an entire school year. He spent the first fourteen and a half years in foster care in twelve different homes. We became a forever family, lucky thirteen. I was told RD would be fortunate to complete middle school. You see, he has learning disabilities (dyslexia and dyscalculia) that were never addressed because of all the bouncing around in foster care. RD had been told he was as far as he’d ever go when I met him.

He had different plans.


This is where I think every adult, every person in the business world, could take a pointer or two from this kiddo. RD had to learn how to learn. No one had ever taken the time to teach him much of anything – a waste, because this kid LOVES to learn. It wasn’t easy, but he was determined. His brain doesn’t see things the way most of ours do, so we had to be creative in figuring out his best learning technique. He was also extremely shy and physically small in stature. Here he was, chronologically two years older than all the kids in 7th grade, but also at least a foot shorter. He was too small to participate in sports his first year, then when he grew a few inches in 8th grade he was too old to participate. One of many obstacles.

Fast forward to today, where RD is graduating from Pepin Academies Pasco, a school created for kids with learning differences. Here he has been able to embrace learning and has shattered all of the boundaries that had been set for him growing up in the system of care. He has a 3.24 GPA and is going to start classes at HCC this summer, with the intent to go to USF or UCF once he gets his AA. He is going to study Public Speaking and theater (where his love of being an Elvis tribute artist will flourish). He has completely come out of his shell and has won local and regional speech contests. He is Student Council President. He has raised over $100,000 for kids in foster care and his charter school while emceeing galas for several different nonprofit agencies. He has given the keynote speech to over 400 attendees for a conference for Florida educators. He tirelessly advocates for foster care adoption and youth aging out of foster care. RD is determined to prove all his naysayers wrong.

The business lessons to be found in all of this are simple, but they’re lessons we forget in the daily grind of the corporate world.

1. Never let someone else determine your fate. YOU are in control of your destiny.
2. Don’t let the way you learn stand in the way of accomplishing your goals. If you want to learn it badly enough, there is someone out there who can teach you.
3. Learn to communicate with everyone, at all levels. Public speaking may not be for everyone but being able to get your message across is crucial.
4. Stand up for what you believe in, no matter how many times you are told you’re wrong or you can’t.
5. Don’t ever give up. RD statistically only had a 4% chance of being adopted based on his age, race, and length of time in foster care, but he NEVER gave up hope of finding his forever family. You may have to tweak some of the details of your dreams and goals, and that’s okay, as long as you never, ever give up.
6. And one of RD’s mottos that he learned from me, that I learned from a mentor many many years ago: If you do the right thing, the next right thing will happen.

If you know me well, you’ve heard me say that RD makes me a better person every day. I’ve felt it since the moment I met him. He makes me a better businesswoman, a better daughter, sister, girlfriend and friend. He has shown me that despite the hand that was dealt him, he chose to rise above all of his obstacles to create a life he can be so proud of. I love you my sweet RDski and cannot wait to watch the next chapter of your life unfold!