Aug 18, 2020
I want you to think back to a time early on in your
life when you were a child or teenager. Think about an adult in
your life who made an impact on you then, who spoke into your life
and encouraged you. It could be a parent, coach, teacher, or
guidance counselor. Who is an adult in your life that made a
positive impact on you; the person you know helped make you who you
are today? The reality is that there are children who grow up in
our country and around the world who don’t have an adult who speaks
into their life like that. My guest today had someone like that in
his life, and his in now changing the lives of thousands of young
people by paying it forward.
Michael Arterberry is the executive director of Youth Voices
Center, Inc. and the creator of The Power of Peace program. Michael began his
tenure working with youth by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in
Social Work from Iona College. In founding YVC in 2008, Michael
drew heavily on his own understanding and empathy for the pressures
and difficulties of the teenager years and his own experiences
growing up in poverty. Michael has worked with thousands of teens
in a range of settings over the past 24 years as a social worker
and counselor. As a teenager, Michael himself was fortunate to
receive guidance from positive adult role models who helped him
over come adversities and set high expectations for his future.
Michael recently released his book, “Be Encouraged!!!: 250 Days of
Motivation and Encouragement and this time it’s FREE! He’s also
launched his new course called “The Shake the Dirt Experience.” You
can find the free book, along with the Shake the Dirt experience
course information at shakethedirtexperience.com. I have to tell you: I
loved my time with Michael. I was in awe of his story, his
relatability, and his encouragement. You may want to listen to this
one more than once. With no further ado, please enjoy my
conversation with Michael!
3:36 - The Michael 101
- To introduce people to his story, Michael often
tells a story about a farmer and a donkey that correlates to who he
is and what he does. The donkey is one of the farmer’s favorite
farm animals because after working all day, he lets the donkey come
back to the house to play with the farmer’s kids and then releases
him back onto the farm for the night. This is the normal routine
they have each night.
- One night after the farmer brings releases the
donkey back out onto the farm after playing with the kids, the
donkey wanders around at night and falls into an empty water well.
The donkey is stuck and cries for help. When the farmer calls for
the donkey the next morning, but he never appears, the farmer
starts looking for the donkey. He finally hears the donkey’s calls
and finds him in the well.
- The farmer brings 6 friends to help get the donkey
out of the well. One of his friends suggests pulling the donkey out
with a rope. They miss the donkey over and over until they throw
the rope on the donkey’s hind legs and start pulling the donkey up
the well. Halfway up, they realize the donkey is too heavy, so they
lower him back to the bottom of the well.
- The farmer has to make a grim decision because he
can’t feed him the food his family eats, but he’s like a pet, so he
certainly can’t starve him. One of the farmer’s hot-headed friends
suggests the farmer shoot the donkey. Of course, the farmer can’t
do that. A more reasonable friend says “You don’t want your kids to
fall into the well, so we’re going to have to bury him.” The farmer
realized he’d have to sacrifice the donkey to make sure his kids
- The farmer and his friends all get shovels and
start shoveling the dirt. Every time the dirt hit the donkey, the
donkey would scream and cause the farmer distress. This continued:
dirt was shoveled, the donkey would scream. Dirt was shoveled, the
donkey would scream…until the screaming stopped. The next think you
know, you can see half the donkey’s body, then you can see the
entire donkey, then the donkey walks right out of the well.
- Every time the dirt would hit the donkey’s back,
the donkey would shake it off and step on it. He took every scoop
of dirt that was meant to kill him to to save his life.
- Michael is the donkey and he describes these things
in his life as the “dirt”: He grew up in a home with a raging,
alcoholic father. It created an environment where Michael never had
a day of peace. Michael’s parents both worked full time, but his
father’s money went to drinking, and his mother’s housekeeping
salary went to taking care of her kids. There was a lot of love,
but not much financial stability.
- His home was dysfunctional, but so were most of the
homes in his neighborhood. Michael describes his peers raising each
other, but with false systems of dysfunction instead of trying to
move forward and get out of it. On top of all, there was also a lot
of crime in his community.
- Michael was able to grow up in that environment,
yet not allow any of those negative things to seep in. He refused
to let it mold him into a profile of the kind of person expected to
come from those experiences.
8:50 - The Master Encourager
- Michael wants to see people “shake their dirt” the
way he was able to. God has given him an ability to make sense of
the experiences of young people who are going through what Michael
went through. He works on youth development with Power of Peace,
his nonprofit, Youth Voices Center, and reaches adults through
public speaking about his life.
- The turning point for Michael, when he realized he
wasn’t going to let the dirt bury him really didn’t happen until he
started pursing his career. When he was young, Michael’s mom tried
to offset chaos in their household was to introduce Michael to
sports. At 8 years old, she started him in soccer then basketball,
baseball, and football.
- When Michael graduated from high school, he had
opportunities to play any of those four sports but chose football
because it was his favorite. He was able to live in the craziness
happening in his home but create a traditional household from the
resources he found outside of it. His coaches became father
figures, his teammates like siblings, and the accolades that often
come from parents came instead from the people who loved watching
Michael play football.
- The chaos in Michael’s home became normal to him
and just didn’t affect him. Once he became a Christian, and started
his work, Michael really started understanding how things happen
for a reason, and that God can use his life’s experiences to make
15:18 - Youth Voices Center
- Michael started Youth Voices Center in 2008.
Michael went to college to study social work and mixed his
academics with his life story and really started to have an impact
in his career. However, he was given curriculums from agencies that
wouldn’t work. He would get in trouble when the curriculums didn’t
work out, so he decide to make his own curriculums.
- While working for a nonprofit, Michael created a
curriculum called Power of Peace designed from his own ideas and
experiences and programs he had studied in the past two create a
two-day program for high school students.
- The nonprofit started paying him a salary for the
program, but his boss showed him how much money was coming into the
agency. It was nowhere near what little Michael was being paid. She
took him to a lunch to meet a philanthropist to make a good
impression to make more money.
- When it was Michael’s turn to talk, he had notes
under the table to speak on all the accolades the program had
accumulated. Right before he spoke, he tore up his notes and threw
them on the restaurant floor. Instead he told the philanthropist,
“Don’t worry about your money, because the person I’m most
accountable to is God.”
- The body language reactions around the table ranged
from anger to shock. The lawyer laughed hysterically. Michael just
waited. Little did he know, he’d stepped out on faith in front of a
devoted Christian with a lot of money. She would meet Michael for
breakfast to fellowship. Each time, she’d bring well-known
Christian with her as well.
- Finally Michael got up the gumption to ask her for
money for his program, not the agency. She gave him half to talk on
the road, and said she’d leave half with the agency to they would
not be displeased. Michael still wanted the full amount, so he kept
meeting with her secretly. She did her own research and when she
realized it was his program, he sold Michael he could have the full
- In 2008, Michael stepped out on his own and had the
freedom to offer his programs to schools for FREE! FREE!!!!!!
21:13 – Fruits of Michael’s Labor
- Michael says the “special sauce” of his program is
when he quiets his spirit and lets the Holy Spirit do the work.
Sometimes he’ll be speaking and it’s almost like he’s having an
out-of-body experience with the words that come out.
- Michael calls any kids who go through his program
his surrogate kids. He has two biological children, but all the
children in the program are like his own as well.
- One of the kids in his program came from a family
where four generations never experienced a single high school
graduate. Michael started working with her and became her
accountability partner. There were times she wanted to give up, and
it was a long road of hard work, but she became the first of four
generations to earn her high school diploma. It’s what Michael
wants for all his kids who come from that cycle.
- Tune in at 24:49 to hear a serious and powerful
story about one of Michael’s kids who grew up in the foster care
system and broke the cycle, going on to earn his master’s in
business administration after going through Michael’s program (as a
warning, the first part of this story may be difficult for some to
- Words are powerful. As the book of James tells us,
there is life and death in the tongue. Words can build up, or they
can break down. Mentors speaking positive words over someone
absolutely changes lives. For Michael, it’s a mentality about
creating a culture to raise oneself to a higher level to prevent
circumstances from becoming our standard or our expectation.
- Michael’s programs create community and culture
between kids that might not typically have opportunities to
interact. His program creates empathy and brings kids together so
that they can hear each other and understand each other, and it’s
- All too often we can talk ourselves out of things
that can change everything for us. For example, when attending a
conference, you could strike up a new friendship on the way to the
conference before you even get there, and it could change the
entire course of your life. That’s why Michael says, “the change is
in the show up.”
42:10 - Getting to Know Our Guest
- Join me as I learn some fun facts about Michael
like what he would eat if he had to eat the same thing for dinner
every night, who he’d choose to narrate his life, his favorite TV
show to watch growing up, and a dream he’s yet to achieve. Be sure
to listen to Michael’s answer to what it means to him to run a
business with purpose.
13:02- “It was really an earthshattering moment when
I was studying in the word and it talked about how the enemy peeks
into your future and when he sees what you’re about to get from
God, he can’t stop it, but he can get in your path. When I look
back over my story, he peeked into my future and saw the impact I
was going to have on the world, and tried to take me out.”
“I think survival and being resilient speaks to
anybody in the world.”
19:23 “When she said she would give it (the money) to
me, I was going to back out because I was afraid…the executive
director looked at me and said, “What would your kids say if they
ever knew that you had this opportunity and you passed it up?”
24:00 - “Poverty is not only financial, but people
who grow up in poverty end up having a poverty mentality…always
feeling like someone owes you something.”
25:52 – “It warmed my heart that I had spoke into
this boy’s life and he felt like my words were powerful enough that
he made sure he shared them with his peers.”
29:21 – “It created a culture in me of trying to
raise myself to a higher level which prevented me from using my
life and its situation as being a baseline.”
32:38 – “The change is in the show up.”
33:58 – “Sometimes the fear of not coming prevents
them from being able to go over the hurdle. So just show up. Walk
into the room.”
34:52 – “Fear is paralyzing, so if you allow fear to
control your life, you never move. So move!”
41:13- “When you commune with him regularly as deep
as I do, life is not easy, but I don’t have to do much to hear his
voice. I’m being prompted as the day goes, so it’s not often that I
About Michael Arterberry:
Michael Arterberry is the Executive
Director of Youth Voices Center, Inc. and the creator of the Power
of Peace Program.
Michael began his tenure working with youth by
obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Iona
In founding YVC in 2008, Michael drew
heavily on his understanding and empathy for the pressures and
difficulties of the teenage years. In addition to his own
experiences growing up in poverty, Michael has worked with
thousands of teens in a range of settings over the past 24 years as
a social worker and counselor. As a teenager, Michael was
fortunate to receive guidance from positive adult role models who
helped him to overcome adversities and set high expectations for
Grateful for the role these mentors played in his
own development, Michael decided to dedicate his professional life
to helping teenagers navigate the difficult adolescent
Michael decided to form YVC while working on the
Alternative to Violence Project (AVP) in Green Haven Correctional
Facility. Serving as a counselor in AVP, Michael was impressed by
the progress of inmates who entered the program with plenty of
hesitation and resistance and left the program raving about how
much it transformed their perception of themselves and others.
Realizing the power of this type of experiential program, Michael
founded YVC and launched the Power of Peace program to transform
the lives of youth.
In 2010, Michael was selected out of hundreds of
nominees to receive a USA Network Characters Unite Award,
given to individuals who demonstrate exceptional commitment to
combating prejudice and discrimination while increasing tolerance
and acceptance within their community.
In 2014, he was the recipient of
Men of Color Award for leadership in education,
government, mentorship, entrepreneurial success and community
And most recently, he was awarded
OF THE YEAR AWARD from Y-COP, the Youth Community Outreach Program in Mt.
Vernon at the First Annual Dinner Dance on September 29th,
To learn more about Michael and how he
encourages others, please visit his Blog and Subscribe for updates.
Michael is also the subject of his wife’s first
religion based, spirituality book, “God Was Holding My Hand,” in
which Rachel Arterberry chronicles his journey of coming to
know the Lord. Spanning from his tumultuous childhood, to a college
football injury that turned into spinal cord surgery, Michael
becomes self aware that God was holding his hand each step of the
way. For more information on the book, please click