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How to be a Change Agent with Dr. Art McCoy (ep. 266)

Dr Art McCoy

John O’Leary welcomes Dr. Art McCoy to the Live Inspired Podcast to share how his radical yet practical intervention saved a community.

As we’re in the midst of the storm! COVID-19, economic recession, social unrest and injustices and yet…

Today’s guest is a welcomed reminder of the special people continuing to do extraordinary things every day. Dr. Art McCoy’s radical yet practical intervention as Superintendent has transformed his district from a “dropout factory” to a 100% graduation rate

This inspiring conversation will spark unity + offer you concrete ways to be a change agent in your community.

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  • Through his parent’s adversity, Art learned the importance of hard work, humility and perseverance.
  • “Your pain becomes your springboard for your purpose.”
  • In less than 2 decades, Jennings, a city in North St. Louis, MO, experienced white flight, was taken over of mediocrity, ignorance and apathy and its school faced losing accreditation.
  • In the last decade, Art has worked as the school superintendent to reverse his hometown and establish enlightenment, empowerment and engagement.
  • Dropout factory in a promise zone: When Art started as a superintendent, homelessness, teenage pregnancy birthrates, high school dropouts and unemployment were at all-time highs.
  • In an effort to reverse the statistics of the failing district, Art started a radical reinvention throughout the entire system including parents, teachers and pre-K students.
  • “Hope is your superpower. The second you get destroyed by hopelessness is when  you’re tricked by the enemy or yourself.”
  • Art shares the heartwarming story of how a Somalian refugee learned to shed his darkness and bring the hope of life.
  • Every kid + every person wants the three S’s: Be seen, supported, and affirmed to know they are sufficient.
  • Moving beyond the need to create centers of engagement: To overcome societal deficits, Jennings offers two health-based clinics that cover mental + physical wellbeing, immunizations + dental work, homeless shelters and grocery stores.
  • How Michael Brown’s death sparked change:
    • His sister Deja Brown led a protest to connect + build relationships with local law enforcement.
    • His mother Lezley McFadden partnered with Art and local law enforcement to launch a foundation in his memory.
  • Through their College + Career Prep Academy, students partner with local law enforcement officers who mentor to enlighten, empower + engage change in the community.
  • “No one needs fewer cops. We need better cops. We need cops that care about us. Many of them are good and you need to grow the good.”
  • How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
  • Give your mind, body + spirit, time + space to recharge.
  • How can I be a change agent for good? Grow up, show up sometimes act up, love up and lift up.

[To learn more about privilege versus oppression + the journey of healing, Art recommends  Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi and Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr. Joy Degruy.]


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? The Bible, The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? Courage to go bigger.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? A collage of my great, great, great grandmothers who were slaves.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? Myself 10 minutes before death.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? My brother’s last words to me were “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Be faithful to what you know is true and follow your heart. Sometimes you have to go through it to grow through it.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read? SAGES: Severing achievement gaps that exist in students + severing attainment gaps that exist in society.


My new book IN AWE is now available… and became an instant bestseller! Learn how to rediscover your childlike sense of wonder to unleash inspiration, meaning and joy. Visit ReadInAwe.com today! 


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