Looking for opportunity, not a handout


Opportunities. Not handouts.

When you think about it, it’s really not too much to ask.

A chance to work and to prove one’s self worth.

A chance to get into a good college.  A chance to land a job or start a business that provides for a family. A chance to live a safe, productive life free from violence and chaos.

A chance to prove I will not be a statistic.

These chances — opportunities — are all around but if a young person doesn’t know how to reach them, to get involved, then they often miss out.

This is why it is always encouraging to people in our line of work to see a community come together to give ambitious youth just what they’re seeking.

A chance to not just get by, but get ahead.

Recently PYO, its partners and guests from all over Durham with a stake in the future of youth, gathered at the Ivy Community Center to not only celebrate the impact the organization is having and to hear from youth it serves but to also raise funds to continue the work.

Parents spoke about maturity they have noticed in their children over the years as they begin to take school and part-time jobs seriously.  Community members and business owners talked the impact on all of us by providing opportunities to youth, particularly through work.

Recent research from America’s Promise Alliance’s Center for Promise finds that providing opportunities to build on social support for youth surrounded by risks, can go a long way in helping a young person reach their strengths and also help overcome barriers in career plans and paths.

At the event, students talked about what they gained with chances to intern with a publication like the VOICE, financial institutions, medical establishments or law firms. They shared how empowered they feel knowing how to balance their own budgets and putting aside savings for rainy days.

They talked about how important it is to know that people who don’t even know them care enough to give them the opportunities they have had.

It was a thoughtfulness picked up on by one of the headline speakers, Louis Pastor, CEO and President of Latino Community Credit Union. An advocate of empowering youth through educational means and financial literacy, an understanding of money and finances, he shared why giving opportunities to youth and celebrating the diversity of our community matters.

Pastor announced that LCCU is committed to continuing savings matches it gives PYO students, like those working on this very paper, who work through the organization. If a student saves $325, LCCU will match $175 to get the student to a  $500 benchmark.

Studies from the 1:1 Fund have found that students who begin college with at least $500 in savings are four to five more times to graduate.

That’s not a lot of money but the opportunity it can provide is beyond measure.

Phail Wynn, the vice president of Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs and for whom the Phail Wynn Jr. Student Services Center building on Durham Tech’s campus is named for, also spoke about the value of having programs like these in Durham to continue giving youth opportunities they may not otherwise know of or could find.

Au’Dasia Newsome is a business freshman at Durham Tech and spoke at the fundraising event. The winner of PYO’s Adriel Williams Scholarship, Newsome recently graduated from Riverside High School and has spent the past year and a half interning with local businesses including Self-Help Credit Union and Lo & Behold Natural Body Care.

She spoke how her chances her opportunities to work an internship opened up an entire new world for her. Her opportunities have given her a better “platform” for communicating and interacting with people across a range of diverse backgrounds — something she said she can take with her in the future.

“Now that I have improved that skill, I can open up to networking with people and promoting myself,” Newsome said. “This program has helped me shape the person that I am today, it has let me know what exactly I am capable of.”

Opportunities. Not handouts.

Onward and upward.

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