Scott Chesney has travelled the world to inspire children and adults alike to achieve their dreams.
Now the Verona native is working closer to home to create inspiration and help the physically disabled find careers with his new foundation, Raise Hope Foundation, Inc.
With the help of Chesney and the other founders, Raise Hope provides training, mentoring and job placement help in the financial services sector for people with disabilities. For many, Chesney explains, this is the first time they have worked outside of their home.
"We are creating a blueprint for success and happiness. We want them to be happy and have a purpose, not just settle," Chesney said in a recent interview in his home office.
Chesney, who was surrounded by mementoes and photos from his travels and work as a professional speaker and life coach, is no stranger to challenges. At the age of 15 he awoke to paralysis after suffering a sudden spinal stroke.
Since this diagnosis, Chesney earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Seton Hall University, researched various physical and medicinal therapies and has studied the transformational techniques of the world's exceptional teachers of human behavior to create a personal blueprint for navigating life.
His research has led him to become a widely sought out motivational speaker for adults, teens and families. His disabilty has not stood in the way of him playing a variety of sports and taking on such challenges as walking on fire with his hands and swimming with dolphins. What he enjoys most is spending time with his wife and two children.
Creating Raise Hope Foundation
Chesney has recently cut back on consulting work to take on this new challenge. He was inspired by two of the founders of Raise Hope, Brian Rogers and Mike Testa, both financial professionals.
Rogers, a Vietnam Veteran, developed throat cancer, a result of his exposure to Agent Orange. A surgical procedure left him without the use of his vocal chords.
Testa later was forced to fire his colleague. This injustice sparked Testa to create Raise Hope. According to Chesney, Testa noticed "there were not many people in wheelchairs on Wall Street."
However, with both the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the explosion of technology, a "level playing field" was created for people with physical disabilities.
With space donated by the Fidelco Group, Raise Hope set up its school at the Rutgers Business School in Newark. While Rutgers is not directly affiliated with Raise Hope, the school has offered its help to the foundation.
While Rogers works to recruit and mentor disabled military veterans, Chesney and Donald Galante, the chief investment officer of ED&F Man Capital Markets and the managing partner and founder of Gala Capital Management, teach the classes.
Classes run in 14-week sessions in both the spring and fall. Chesney explained the group meets weekly on Mondays beginning with lunch.
Galante then covers financial training including preparation for financial certification tests such as the Series 7 exam.
Areas covered by Galante include understanding basic "Street" terms such as reading financial reports and how a company works to specifics on topics such as derivatives, global markets, SEC regulations and investing vs. trading. Homework is assigned weekly.
While Galante covers the financial nuts and bolts, Chesney provides training in Life Skills. Many of the participants have never held a job before.
"We try to make them have peace with the past," Chesney said. Both participants were born with a disability and those that acquired it through illness or injury, "They need to manage their disability. It is a discipline," Chesney added.
While Chesney covers job specific topics such as public speaking, resumé writing and interview techniques, he also coaches participants on managing emotions, work/life balance with a disability, creating and reacting to change, courageous leadership and leveraging fear.
The training begins with getting to classes on time. "There are no handouts, no excuses," Chesney said. For many, commuting to classes is a lesson in time management and managing their disability.
While Chesney acknowledges there are always legitimate reasons a trainee might miss a session, he expects to be notified, especially with technology making everyone easily accessible.
"We challenge people on this," Chesney said, noting the importance of professional courtesy.
Future Plans and Opportunities
With one class of participants already graduating and the spring course underway, Raise Hope founding partners are working to place participants in jobs.
Participants have taken part in job shadowing programs and Raise Hope is working with companies such as Merrill Lynch and Prudential.
While the course is geared to jobs in the financial services industry, Chesney points out within that field there are opportunites in departments such as public relations, social media and compliance. Eventually, Raise Hope would like to expand their training to other industries.
To raise more money for this non-profit organization, a fundraiser will be held in October. To make a donation to Raise Hope Foundation, Inc., or to find out about registering for the fall semester, click here.