Editor’s Note: This week we are proud to celebrate National Boys & Girls Club Week! During this week we encourage you to take time to discover your local Boys & Girls Club and its role in the community. From homework help, open houses and parades to picnics, performances and fundraisers, there are many fun opportunities to learn more about your local Boys & Girl Club. Microsoft has partnered with BGCA since 1998, and has pledged $150 million in support to Boys & Girls Clubs and the Club Tech program. We encourage you to join and support us during National Boys & Girls Club Week. Contact your local Club and find out why great futures start at Boys & Girls Clubs!

Guest post by Bernard Morgan, Partner Account Manager, Microsoft East Region Charlotte Campus, Carolinas Region

clip_image002I always root for the underdog. My wife says that I’m a softy for the little guy. And frankly, she’s right. I remember the second season of American Idol and seeing Rubin Studdard for the first time. If memory serves me correctly, he walked into his Birmingham, Alabama audition with an oversized red football, slow shuffle of a walk, and a huge smile. I didn’t know what to expect from him at this time given the young girls and guys who went before him looked like models; however, I was definitely open to this big guy with the big smile blowing Simon away. Only a few notes into his song, Rubin was amazing! He finished with thunderous applause from all the American Idol judges and a standing ovation from me as I stood in my living room.

It took me more than seven years but at the Boys & Girls Club of Charlotte’s 75th Anniversary Celebration, I had an opportunity to hear Rubin live and give him yet another standing ovation. Interestingly, there was one difference, I found myself applauding for his support of the Boys & Girls Club in locations like Charlotte, NC across the entire country. As it turns out, Rubin is an Alumnus of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Alabama and a national spokesperson for the Boys and Girls Club of America. Truly humble beginnings for a nominated Grammy Award artist but par for the course when you consider the huge smile, slow shuffle of a walk, and the oversized red football jersey he once donned on American Idol. And what’s special about Rubin today isn’t just his music, it’s his journey, and his passion to give back to help the next Boys and Girls Club alumnus with their journey. As a Microsoft employee, this is a passion that I believe we all share with Rubin.

Microsoft was one of a number of sponsors who provided volunteers and funding to host Rubin’s Charlotte visit and offer the “Boys & Girls” a free party featuring Rubin and other artists like Chad Mackey, Damien Horne, and Marshall Crenshaw. At times, all someone could see were kids playing football, eating sweets, receiving free hats or sword balloons, being entertained by clowns and the science exhibit, and of course, hydrated by bottles of water and soda from my refreshment stand where I volunteered.

I can’t help but think that there are a number of kids who often feel like the underdog. Fortunately, Rubin’s journey, and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Charlotte are creating opportunities for these same kids to become America’s next Entrepreneur, Entertainment, Business and/or Civic Idol!

Good luck Rubin! Thanks for sharing your journey, and supporting the Boys & Girls Club of America!