Christ cross

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins talks to the Valiant Cross Academy community

The first keep coming at Valiant Cross Academy, the all-male Christian private school in downtown Montgomery.

This year, the school enrolled its first class of seniors. These are the same young men who started their sixth-grade studies there in 2015, and now each plans to either go to college, join the army or enter a technical school.

The first senior class led to Valiant Cross’ first prom earlier this month, and the school will host its first graduation in May.

As founders, directors, parents and donors celebrate these milestones, Valiant Cross also welcomed its first Fortune 500 CEO on Wednesday to inspire school students and their supporters.

Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins addressed a crowd of about 600 at the school’s third annual Scholars Breakfast.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins speaks during the Valiant Cross Academy Breakfast Fundraiser at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

“I’m honored to be here,” Robbins said. “You kind of pinch yourself at some point – because I grew up in a town of 900 people. It’s still a small rural town, but it’s no longer 900 and the dirt roads are gone. Then, to run an iconic company in Silicon Valley, you really have to step back and ask yourself, “Why?” »

Robbins grew up on a farm in Grayson, Georgia, and although his stepfather raised him to be competitive and disciplined, he never really had a plan for his life.

Instead of meticulously planning his steps from his high school class to a leadership position at Cisco in San Jose, Calif., Robbins said he’s just focused on making the best decisions he can every day.

AFTER:Valiant Cross plants an urban garden

“I believed that if my leadership didn’t come and tap me on the shoulder and ask me to do the next job, I wouldn’t be doing my current job well enough,” Robbins said. “I never asked to pass an interview for an opening. I just waited.

He used this tactic to go from rookie business account manager to CEO in the space of 17 years.

Another piece of advice Robbins gave to Valiant Cross students was to always be around people who are better than you.

Tonya Terry interviews Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins at the Valiant Cross Academy fundraising breakfast at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

“I have a math degree from North Carolina. I never took a business class in college and I have MBAs from Harvard working for me,” Robbins said. knowing that you really have to develop a team of people who complement you and do a lot of things that you don’t succeed.”

That lesson is one Robbins learned from his youth and the times he shared the basketball court with fellow UNC Tar Heel Michael Jordan.

Robbins’ family hails from Wilmington, North Carolina, Jordan’s hometown.

“We were playing basketball all the time,” Robbins said. “My child, a few years ago, found my high school address book, and in pencil where Michael Jordan was written, there was a home phone number.”

Before launching his tech career, Robbins followed his basketball career to the junior varsity team at UNC Chapel Hill, where he remembers occasionally guarding Jordan in practice games.

“I haven’t had one or two people that I consider to be mentors. In fact, I think about it a little differently. I think there are about 400 people who have given me a bit of mentorship,” Robbins said. “Everyone you interact with, you learn something.”

When brothers Anthony and Frederick Brock started Valiant Cross Academy years ago, they envisioned a bright future for the young men at their school, and a big part of it was mentorship.

Founder Anthony Brock speaks during the Valiant Cross Academy Breakfast Fundraiser at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

Together with the team of teachers and donors who supported them, they would lead the boys who came to the academy on the path of discipline, love and academic success.

“It’s a good thing for the city of Montgomery, for the community of Montgomery,” Frederick Brock said. “Having so many people in one room means a lot to Valiant Cross.”

The annual breakfast is the school’s largest annual fundraiser. The 2023 speaker will be announced in January.

Hadley Hitson covers the rural South for the Montgomery Advertiser and Report for America. She can be contacted at