The Journey: Poverty, War, and Yale


Adrian Hale, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, Senior Manager for Workforce and Economic Development, grew-up in a neighborhood with challenges that frequently produced life and death situations.

However, when he joined the United States Marines Corps, situations concerning whether he lives or dies, was taken to a higher level of danger, he didn’t knew existed.

Unlike the dangers he grew-up with, deployed as a CH-53 aircraft avionics technician, Hale was always on the brinks of life and death situations.

“Our duties encompass inserting Marines into the battlefield and extracting them out of the battlefield,” Hale said. “On most days, you can’t predict, if it was going to be your last day on Earth.”

Hale recalls, extracting Marines from the battlefield for the first-time and simultaneously being shot at, while flying high between the towering mountains in Afghanistan.

“Our aircraft began to automatically perform military defense counter measures such as pop, chaff and flare,” Hale points-out. “When this procedure is deployed, we know we’re being targeted and need to prepare for incoming artillery or missiles. The experience was a sobering moment that reminded me of growing-up around First Street and Conkey Avenue on Rochester’s north-east side, where the streets was in my household. “And like then, he said. “I didn’t realize the lurking dangers in my neighborhood, until that day, I was forced into a life or death situation.”

Nonetheless, Hale recalls fruitful memories, like walking to the store with his mom to buy an entire collection of encyclopedias.

“To this day, I appreciate that my parents read to my siblings and myself, a lot,” Hale said.

From those educational and informative moments, he embraced ideas that empowered his spirit and fortitude, he could be, whatever he wanted to be.

“I found direction from the discontentment and dissatisfaction of my environment,” Hale points-out. “I was growing-up saying, I want to make life better, not just for my family, but for everybody. I discovered ‘purpose’ and knew, I wanted to be somebody that was going to have a positive impact.”

After high school, Hale decided the military was the correct place to begin that journey, so he joined the Marines Corps at 18 years-old.

Hale spent 5 years in the Marines that included two deployments in Afghanistan and one special-operation deployment with the United States Naval Armed Forces, before returning to Rochester.

During those tours, Hale said, he witnessed his government support unlimited financial campaigns that focused more attention on what young Afghans were going through than people right here in our borders.

“And that’s when I knew I wanted to go to college,” he said. “So, I got out the Marines and started to study these problems.”

“Coming from an action-oriented climate to an environment of complacency in Rochester was tough,” Hale admits. “My life was spinning out-of-control. I missed the camaraderie and the weight of accountability, so when I got out of the Corps in May of 2012, I joined the Air Force Reserve in August 2012,” Hale adds. “I also enrolled at Monroe Community College (MCC).

The combined efforts of enlisting in the Air Force Reserve and enrolling at MCC, were key dependencies that helped Hale turn-around an emotional-driven downward spiral.

In 2014, he graduated with distinction from MCC, with an associate science degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences and General Studies and Humanities, before transitioning to Yale University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Government.

While at MCC, Hale developed a friendship with Bob Duffy, president and chief executive officer at the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and was encouraged to keep in touch during his tenure at Yale.

“In college, I became an undergraduate fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies,” Hale said. “There, I would study in-depth police reform and education reform. In the meantime, I took Bob up on an opportunity to work for him during my summer breaks from college,” he notes. “Because, Bob was impressed with my work over those two summers, it led to his offer of a full-time position as an executive in January 2017, when I got done at Yale in December of 2016.”

Hale started at the chamber as an associate of Strategic Initiatives, to manager of Strategic Initiatives, before advancing to senior manager of Workforce and Economic Development.

“I’m on the brink of introducing a program called CORE- Creating Opportunity in Rochester for Equity and Employment initiatives,” Hale said. “This program is a ‘How To’ for businesses to take into account the high percentage of our workforce that are unable to verify common prerequisites to employment.”

“If, we are serious about cutting down on poverty, we have to have our business community step-up to the plate and mitigate as many barriers to people who are in poverty to get a good job,” Hale continues. “When companies apply for public dollars, I feel you owe the public some kind of accountability. If, you’re getting money from the government, then you should have a more equitable process for people to gain employment there. And not just employment, but also opportunities for career advancement to move-up in the company.”
More Stories Like This