This is the story about the president and founder of CTD Development Services, Carlos Lemus.
Introduction: Humble Beginnings High Expectations
I was born in 1972, and was raised in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up in the neighborhood of Park Slope. My mom came from a village in Guatemala so remote that other Guatemalans haven’t heard of it. My dad came from El Gallito, a neighborhood in Guatemala City so poor and rough that when other Guatemalans hear where he is from, they just say, “Yikes!”
Growing up, five of us lived in a two-bedroom apartment. At times as many as nine of us lived there. At the time, it never registered that my background and living conditions were part of some government agency’s formula for predicting future academic success and socioeconomic status. All I knew was that I had daily soccer training, I had to get good grades, and I had to go to a good college, because that’s what my parents told me I had to do.
From kindergarten to fourth grade I attended PS282, a public elementary school in Park Slope Brooklyn. In the middle of 4th grade, I got into a fight with a classmate who just happened to be a gang member. When my life was threatened, I convinced my parents to switch my schools. So, I was enrolled at St. Augustine St. Francis Xavier School. It was the local Catholic School, and it is where I would receive my education through grade 8.
I attended Brooklyn Technical High School from 1985 to 1989. It was known as one of the three specialized high schools serving the best and brightest students from the Five Boroughs in the New York City metropolitan area. There I majored in computer science, and developed my love for math, science, and technology.
I did my undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley, graduating with a bachelor of arts in mathematics in 1995. In the fall of 1996, I began my doctoral studies at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. With my coursework completed, and just a dissertation left, I decided to put my graduate work on ice until I gained some field experience as an educator. I never returned to complete the program.
The Awakening That Still Drives My Personal Mission Today
I’ve always believed that knowledge is power, and I’ve always known math and science form one of the most powerful bodies of knowledge one can possess. So, I majored in math and took several science and engineering courses. To complement, I took a work-study job as assistant to the executive director at NASA/UC Berkeley’s Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Astrophysics (CEA). When I found myself surrounded predominantly by Asian and White students, in every class I took at UC Berkeley and at CEA, I finally understood what being part of an underrepresented minority group looked like.
Slowly, I began to understand how the lack of representation of students from certain groups in high caliber science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs resulted in socioeconomic disadvantages for the communities they came from. I began to understand how these inequities, if not corrected, grow larger from generation to generation. I wanted to do something to level the playing field, and became involved in programs advocating for educational equality and opportunity. Eventually, I would become a teacher.
Early Career: Teacher
The Spring of 1997, I got my first career job as a teacher for the Inglewood Unified School District. There I taught elementary school first, and then taught middle school Algebra 1. I was exactly where I wanted to be, in the inner city serving, nurturing, and inspiring young minds. Regardless of their economic status, they were all underrepresented in high caliber STEM programs.
My passion to make my students successful always overpowered their apathy. I did whatever it took to show them anything is possible, and I tried to demystify the journey to a better life through education. I taught. I tutored. I made home visits. I trained their parents. I listened when no one else would. I involved them in extracurricular activities. I even taught them how to complete a college application. Most important of all, I told them my story.
I could have been a teacher for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I went into the profession not expecting to love it as much as I did, and so I never completed the coursework to earn my credential. I had been on an emergency credential since the beginning. So, when the fifth year was coming to a close, I had to stop teaching.
When I left Inglewood, I vowed to come back as a mentor who would create opportunity for young people. The year was 2001.
Mid-Career: Non-Profit Sector Consultant
From 2001 to 2007 I worked in the non-profit sector, still in the field of education. Now I was a consultant/coach who worked with school leadership teams on projects intended to help raise the standardized test scores for low achieving students.
Working in schools with the adults instead of the kids made it clear that too few people truly understand, or refuse to acknowledge, what it takes to properly reach, serve, and educate children effectively. Policies, funding priorities, curricula, and job functions are influenced by small groups with self-interested agendas competing with one another instead of collaborating and compromising. Realizing that making our schools better would take a lot more than holding a weekly meeting with dysfunctional leadership teams, I decided to take a step back from school improvement projects. Instead, I tried my hand in the private sector.
Mid-Career (Part 2): Private Sector Director
On September 11, 2007 my goal of becoming an influencer within a large business was fulfilled. I was hired as HR Director for C.R. Laurence Co., Inc (CRL). During my tenure there we saw the company grow from 20 locations to 40 and 800 employees to about 1600 worldwide. We were the dominant company in our industry, and I was part of the A-Team.
My years in the corporate sector taught me more about what makes businesses successful than I could have ever learned from an MBA program. I was grateful for that learning, and the pay was very good. Yet, I never enjoyed the same personal fulfillment I experienced as a teacher. On top of that, the time required to do my job well continued to grow and eat family time. Eventually I concluded that I needed a job where I could be just as productive but had more control of my work schedule.
On March 1, 2019 I created a nonprofit organization called CTD Development Services Inc (CTDDS). I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew that I now possessed over a decade of business training, experience, and wisdom obtained at a world-class mid-sized business. I knew that there were countless young entrepreneurs in our inner-cities whose business opportunities would be improved if I taught them what I know. I knew that I had to go back to the same communities I came from in order to find them. I also knew that the results from the work I did with and for them would have little impact if done in isolation of a broader mission and vision to make the world a better place for all.
I have seven clients in my client portfolio. All are entrepreneurs who want to make a living serving children and their families, or wish to use their success to help improve the lives of children. That is the type of client I seek – ambitious, in possession of a sellable service or product, with a proven history of success, in need of help growing their business, and committed to improving the lives of children on a large scale.
Three are in the youth soccer business. One owns a soccer league and soccer club, one works with public school districts to establish intra-district soccer leagues as part of their after-school program, and one has opened a soccer academy for beginners.
My next client is a former algebra teacher presently building an interactive video-based Algebra 1 course designed to develop mastery of Algebra 1 concepts and applications in 80% of its users. My next two clients are entrepreneurs with artistic inclinations. One is a clothing designer and the other is a painter. Both have tremendous talents worthy of consumption.
My last client is a public elementary school parent leadership team. While schools are not businesses, they often need the same assistance growing businesses do – learning to effectively serve a growing number of clients with a growing number of needs or expectations.
With these seven clients I can complete the first phase of my plan. All I need to do is make them self-sustaining profitable enterprises by the end of 2020. Visit The Plan page on the CTD Development Services Inc website to see how my work with these entrepreneurs fits into the organization’s broader mission.