Apr 28 • 26M

There's more than one way to be smart, with Ross Danis

Ross Danis, former president and CEO of nonprofit MeckEd, worked to ensure access to opportunity for all children in Mecklenburg County

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Lindsey Banks
We talk with Charlotte leaders about important and interesting issues, with an eye toward making you smarter, telling you things you don’t know and introducing you to people with insights about trends in Charlotte.
Episode details

When Ross Danis was in seventh grade, his teacher assigned him a thousand-word essay as punishment for talking too much in class. Danis didn’t write it.

Instead, he drew a stick figure on a piece of paper with an X through its mouth. When the teacher asked him what it was, Danis responded: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

His teacher simply smiled and told him to return to his seat. His creativity and cleverness satisfied the assignment.

Danis is the former president and CEO of MeckEd, a Charlotte nonprofit dedicated to ensuring access to opportunity for all children. He retired on April 4, 2023 — after this podcast episode was recorded.

Danis operated under the idea that there is more than one way to be smart. In his role with MeckEd, he helped children like his younger self realize that struggling with traditional schooling doesn’t define their intelligence.

In this episode of The Charlotte Ledger Podcast, Danis discusses:

  • The types of overlooked careers that make sense for some students

  • His time going to night school while working in construction.

  • What services MeckEd provides for children across Mecklenburg County.

  • The importance of finding passion in order to reach fulfillment.

  • Danis’ podcast, called “Let’s Reinvent School,” that focuses on the positives in school to build upon going forward.

  • The student lunch debt.

  • The most profound thing he’s ever heard (which he heard from a toll booth operator in New Jersey).

Danis received The Ledger’s 40 Over 40 Award in 2020 for his work with MeckEd to ensure all children in the county have access to opportunity. His nominator wrote: “I’ve never met a more dedicated public servant who was willing to fight for what was right.”

This podcast episode is part of a series highlighting winners of The Ledger’s 40 Over 40 awards, which honor and celebrate often unheralded people over the age of 40 who are making impactful contributions to Charlotte. It’s hosted by Steve Dunn of Miles Mediation and Arbitration.

Find out more about the 40 Over 40 awards by going to ledger40over40.com.

We hope you enjoy the conversation with Ross Danis.

The Charlotte Ledger Podcast is produced by Lindsey Banks.

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