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The Magic Behind the Ron Clark Academy and Inspire Brands’ Partnership

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By Jessica Shock

Richard Taylor has always had a personal passion for investing in his local community, especially through non-profits approaching challenges with an innovative mindset. When Inspire’s Senior Director and Legal Counsel first experienced the Ron Clark Academy’s (RCA) vision to transform classrooms around the world, he knew there was something special happening in downtown Atlanta. When that vision connected with Inspire, Richard knew it was the start of something magical.

This month, the SONIC Foundation announced they would be sending 125 teachers from around the U.S. through Ron Clark Academy’s Professional Development program, offering an immersive two-day experience for educators to learn transformative techniques and skills to take back to their own schools. The idea for this program started with simple conversations between friends and colleagues.

“I was a Marketing Attorney at Turner Entertainment supporting the live-action networks, and we premiered a movie called The Ron Clark Story,” recalls Richard. “In the years after, I connected with Kirk Brown, my fraternity brother, and began to really understand what RCA was all about.”

The Ron Clark Academy is a non-profit middle school operating with a vision to transform classrooms around the world by demonstrating transformative teaching methods and techniques. Kirk Brown is Ron Clark Academy’s Chief Development & Communications Officer, who has raised more than $70 million benefiting non-profit organizations across his career and currently leads strategic campaigns and fundraising efforts for RCA. For Richard, Kirk has been instrumental in understanding RCA’s monumental impact.

“Through Kirk, I have visited RCA many times and witnessed the wonder of the school building itself,” says Richard. “When I participated as a judge in the 2023 Amazing Shake, I really saw the magic of the program.” The Amazing Shake, a 3-day competition that judges the hard and soft skills behind a great first impression and teaches students how to exceptionally present themselves for opportunities ahead.

“It really opened my eyes,” says Richard. “These kids were confident, knowledgeable, proud, articulate, and so genuinely supportive of each other – everything you would want your own child to be. It showed me what education could and should be, not just for the students at RCA, but everywhere.”

After volunteering at The Amazing Shake, Richard was excited to share his experience with Inspire Brands Foundation’s Executive Director Stuart Brown. “We went to an RCA open house together, and the next thing I knew, we were on a call with Ron and Kirk.” For Richard, Inspire’s desire to deepen its relationship with RCA doesn’t come as a surprise. “RCA is an Atlanta institution, and so are we. To not be involved in their mission and Maverick-like thinking would’ve been a miss.”

Richard recently inspired his coworkers to volunteer at this year’s Amazing Shake. “My colleagues had a great time meeting these young people and were as impressed as I was with the quality conversations we had,” says Richard. “The fact that RCA is not just improving the quality of education for students in Georgia, but also empowering teachers to go back to their own schools and be change agents around the country gives so much hope for our future.”

To learn more about the SONIC Foundation’s Limeades for Learning initiative that’s sending 125 educators from 80 public school districts to RCA, click here. To learn more about The Ron Clark Academy, visit RCA’s website.

Interested in a career with Inspire and our brands? Visit our careers website.