This Father’s Day, we celebrated the Dads that have been there for their children, and made a difference in the lives of others. Last Sunday at the Bentley Hotel Penthouse, New York Carib News honored the following fathers and community leaders at their Fabulous Father’s Program: television actor from HBO’s “Oz” and NBC’s “Crossing Jordan”, Leon Robinson; physician and medical director Dr. J. Carl Kenel-Pierre MD; director, writer, composer and choreographer from South Africa, Mbongeni Ngema; President of Tower Isle Foods Ltd, Patrick A. Jolly; basketball hall-of-famer, public speaker, and humanitarian, Thabiti Boone; and George Gresham, the Secretary Treasurer of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
Among Mr. Gresham’s many contributions, the program coordinator of the Youth Empowerment Project in the Bronx, Andy King talked about how Mr. Gresham’s support and generosity for this 1199 organization positively impacts the community’s young people.
Mr. King states, “I appreciate all that Mr. Gresham does and his passion for young people.” Mr. King also shares the story of how the Youth Empowerment Project started.
“Seven years ago, we invited the young people between the ages 13 and 21 from the Bronx to get involved in a campaign for the Fernando Ferrer,” the 2001 candidate for the New York City mayoral campaign. Mr. King continues, “The youth involved worked with the community to address the political and economic issues. Even when the campaign was over, they were so inspired by the experience, they wanted to do more.”
The interest from young members of the campaign and their commitment that led Mr. King and one of his partners, Vicky Owens, the Vice President of the 1199 Retirees Division, to create the Youth Empowerment Project.
Since its beginnings in 2004, YEP has been showing young individuals how to be successful individuals. The organization’s slogan reads “Building body, mind and community.” Mr. King discusses how each component is essential in a young adult’s development.
“Body: our youth learns about what they need in order to take care of themselves by having conversations about health care with medical professionals.
“Mind: Developing a mind-set that will help you make better decisions, prepares you to deal with life changes.
“Community: Our youth members sit in on communication board meetings; Community Educational Council (CEC) meetings; and rallies that focus on issues that affect them. This includes youth crime, or education cuts made by Albany.”
In addition, YEP provides young adults with information and help to properly deal with the negatives in their lives, whether it is the influence of gangs in their neighborhoods or peer pressure. YEP also provides young people within their neighborhood the opportunities to work with the senior community and the disabled. George Gresham, who has also been a close acquaintance of Mr. King’s for years, saw an opportunity to expand this organization’s influence.
“Working as one of President Obama’s campaign leaders in Philadelphia, Mr. Gresham and I were invited to a special event with the president,” explained Mr. King. “Here, talked about giving the young people at YEP an opportunity to see Washington D.C.” This resulted in a trip to the nation capital, organized by YEP, with a bus and lunch provided by Mr. Gresham.
For the last three years, Mr. Gresham invited YEP’s youth to the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus in Albany, NY. The gratitude from both the organization and the youth is rewarding. Mr. King claims that for some, these experiences changed their lives.
As a whole, with Mr. Gresham’s support, the youth that were a part of YEP have gained positive experience and knowledge that would help them better themselves. According to Mr. King, those who have benefited the most from YEP have experienced an improvement in self confidence; an increase in self-discipline; overcoming their shyness; and a developed sense of commitment towards achieving their dreams, like studying more or studying smarter in order to get into college.
Mr. King also recalls a comment that the Superintendent of District 88 at the NYC Department of Education, Anthony Orzo, once made at a Community Education Council. According to Mr. King, Orzo said, “When we have a community problem, we turn to YEP.”
Aside from Orzo, Mr. and Mrs. Rodney, who were just rewarded President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award, also value this organization. Mr. Rodney says:
“George Gresham sees the value of a strong community as one of the best ways to raise the quality of life for all its members. He is very committed and determined in that endeavor.”