THE BLOG
09/17/2014 03:52 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

Beyond the Clothes

It's often said that clothes make an individual, but this old adage isn't always true -- as there are many talented individuals who don't dress as expected and still have a lot to offer. The reality is that sometimes individuals who appear to be different don't always get a chance to prove their worth.

Sometimes as a society we are blinded, misguided or prejudiced based on individual appearances instead of giving someone a fair opportunity to simply have a chance. It's these types of unfiltered and acted on prejudices that prevent some individuals who appear to be different from an ability to receive a certain level of respect, which everyone deserves.

Individuals may use past experiences, school lessons, others' guidance and various information sources to navigate a sometimes crazy world. These types of experiential learning help individuals to develop decision making guidelines. Regardless of an individual's decision making process, the use of personal filters to prejudice societal views against anyone due to characteristic, religious, economic, life circumstances or other differences isn't acceptable.

Prejudice is a societal fault that continues to hold the human race back from achieving its potential.

Many individuals at some point have had a prejudiced opinion about someone. The word 'opinion' is used because oftentimes prejudice viewpoints aren't based on any supportable fact(s). Therefore, understanding that prejudice does happen, it's our collective responsibility to take action to move beyond an impulsive reaction to someone's looks, clothes, speech pattern or other factors.

On a personal note, I had an incredible opportunity to work with a group of men who started in my business training program. These men didn't know anything about the program or me except that it was an opportunity to improve their life and business skills. Shortly after the first class started, I went from explaining business and life concepts to a question and answer exchange that Socrates would be very proud of and also inspired. These men demonstrated their desire to leave past challenges behind to have an opportunity to learn something new, improve their current situation and begin to make positive forward-progress.

These men wanted nothing more than to have an opportunity to improve their skills, which I was inspired by their willingness to immediately engage with me to discuss these concepts. It was evident that these men had a desire to learn about business, develop professional resumes and challenge me to provide information that was most useful to them. Their desire for information was even more inspiring because these unplanned requests provided me with an opportunity to deliver additional material, which highlights the value of sometimes not proceeding as planned.

The most amazing and beneficial recognition for me was seeing the interest in these men's eyes and their willingness to engage in a process of learning. My ability to see these individuals as eager learners was solidified while I prepared to teach these men on my first day. While I went through my mental preparation, I recognized my own potential prejudices and made a conscience decision to ensure that I treated these men with the same dignity and respect as any other student who wanted to learn.

The only difference in this learning environment was that these students were in a controlled facility with correctional uniforms on their bodies and not their minds. Notwithstanding the uniforms, these men are individuals who should receive a quality education, have an opportunity for a prosperous future and also have the right to not be forever tarnished by a past choice -- because an individual's past isn't always indicative of future (positive or negative) behavior.

Therefore, give others a chance ... the same chance you would want someone to give you.

Mr. Young is the founder of "Saving Our Communities at Risk Through Educational Services (SOCARTES -- www.socartes.org)" an educational non-profit, which teaches individuals in at-risk communities about life, business and soft skills.

This post originally appeared on S. L. Young's blog on his website at: www.slyoung.com