President John F. Kennedy gave America a non-profit organization that was not a scam, or a lie, or a con. He gave America a program that was not a get rich quick scheme or a way for people to stuff money in their pockets while claiming to help the poor. No. John F. Kennedy from Boston created a program that was sincerely designed to help people with no intent to make a profit. It has been over 50 years and no person or organization has been able to tarnish the non-profit program or to destroy the name of The Peace Corps.
It was not until 2000 that another non-profit organization was created by a man in Boston that captured the essence of helping the youth of America to find their true potential with adults who were more concerned about helping people than making money. In the corporate world making money is the basis of a company’s existence. Companies that do not make money are not in existence very long. However, the distinction is clear. If a company is in business to make money say it. Say, “We are here for profit and as much profit as possible.” Year Up is a non-profit organization that has been tried and tested for over 15 years. It has a proven mission for helping America’s urban youth reach their full potential. Year Up is not a scam, or a lie, or a con. Year Up is an honest, true, program that is giving corporations and small business owners a way to help urban youth. Some of those companies have made billions of dollars offering their services to the America people. Year Up gives them an opportunity to give back to the people who made them rich.
Amazingly there are people, like the people who work for the Peace Corps and Year Up, who believe in their mission of making life better for other people with no interest in making money for themselves. It is not all about the Benjamins. People who are only interested in making money, with no regard for helping others, find it hard to believe that there are people who work solely to help others. However, after half a decade of research and writing about the creators of the Year Up program it is clear that the mission of Year Up is being achieved across America by people who are dedicated to helping urban young people without concern for profit for themselves.
Corporations and small business owners are supporting Year Up in order to give young people the opportunity to better their lives with wages that are high enough to prevent a life of poverty. Frederick Douglass, born in Maryland, gave a speech nearly 200 years ago to address the problem of millions of African Americans men coming out of 300 years of slavery. Douglass shocked the nation by telling America that African American men did not need a handout. Douglass believed that handouts would make African American men dependent after slavery where they had been told where they would work, what time to get up, and what time to go to bed. Douglass said, “Any man who does not chose his own work is technically a slave.”
Four of the greatest African American leaders lived and worked in Maryland. Frederick Douglass, Daniel Alexander Payne, Harriet Tubman, and Thurgood Marshall all worked and were helped by the state of Maryland. The April 27, 2015, civil unrest in Baltimore sent alarm and shock waves across the nation because people had been led to believe that so much progress had been made. If students are taught the great contributions that the State of Maryland made in helping African Americans overcome slavery there would never be an attempt to destroy lives and property in that great state.
Millions of Americans watched as young African American males burned police cars and looted businesses that caused over 20 million dollars in damage until Governor Larry Hogan restored law and order. The truth was revealed. Douglass, Payne, Tubman and Marshall would not have approved of the violence and destruction in the streets of the city that gave them refuge while African Americans were being lynched, beaten, and enslaved in the South. Payne certainly would have said that Baltimore saved his life when he was forced to flee South Carolina in 1832 for being a teacher.
Societies fail when citizens chose to disobey the law. Choosing not to ride the buses in Montgomery, Alabama in December of 1955 was not breaking the law. No law could force free citizens to ride the buses of Montgomery. However, rioting, burning police cars and looting CVS stores is breaking the law. There are ways to cry out for help without violence or destruction as shown in the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. President Obama stated in his Nobel Prize for Peace acceptance speech that if were not for the work of King, he would not be where he is today.
“African American boys have a problem asking for help. If you ask them how they are doing they will say fine,” said Michael Cryor, Chairman of OneBaltimore and the January 2016 Year Up Graduation keynote speaker. Cryor gave his keynote address to a dedicated audience of students, parents, Year Up staff, corporate partners and friends who refused to allow the worst snowstorm and its aftermath in recent history to stop them from recognizing the achievements of the most recent additions to the 10,000 Year Up graduates across the United States of America.
Chairman Cryor hit a nerve in his graduation speech that was revealed to the nation and the world on April 27, 2015. His speech reflected what was evident to the nation and the world on April 27, 2015, that African American males are not doing fine. With the highest number of arrests, high school dropout rates, unemployment, and drug addiction, imprisonment, and death African American males are the most endangered group in America today. Their lives matter and Year Up has listened to their applications seeking help.
As Cryor called to the nation to help African American males he noted that America cannot sail the ship of state by leaving African American males behind. “The boat is not going anywhere,” he said. Year Up is the most successful program in the nation for helping urban youth overcome the opportunity divide; however, the success the program has had in helping African America males is truly phenomenal when looking at the bleak statistics shown in every other area of African American male existence. Many can only read at a 3rd grade level and others have only minimal computer skills making the many tech level jobs unattainable to them. Year Up graduates are taught computer skills and given remedial assistance to help them catch up with their peers. The Year Up graduation on Friday January 29, 2016, was a showcase of the success Year Up is having across the nation in sharing the American Dream with African American males that Cryor spotlighted in his keynote address.
“As you all walk across the stage at today’s commencement, take not that you are now part of a movement of more than 10,000 Year Up alum that represent what can be and what should be. You are the empowered young professional Baltimore’s companies and its city needs to thrive. Through your experience over the last year I hope you have developed a deeper appreciation for what you can achieve through your hard work, passion, and perseverance,” said Roland R. Selby, Jr., Executive Director, Year Up Baltimore.
The high school dropout rate for African American males is deplorable. By lumping African American males with African American females, Hispanic males, and Hispanic females’ schools have hidden how critical the dropout rate is for African American males. When the focus is placed solely on African American males the dropout rate is at crisis level. Scholars and researchers know that African American males have the highest public school dropout rate in the nation. Study after study decries the need for the nation to do something about the masses of African American males who are dropping out of public school.
The high suspension and high dropout rates were given national attention in February of 2014 when President Barack Obama did focus on one of the greatest problems facing African American males in the public schools of America. A problem that Deans of Students and in School Suspension Coordinators knew first hand: African American males lead the nation in students who are suspended from public high schools. There are more African American males suspended than white males, Hispanic males, white girls, Hispanic girls and black girls. They are suspended while the others groups are in class, in school, getting further and further ahead. President Obama knew this is a prescription for disaster. He created guidelines that held schools legally responsible for the disparate impact of their disciplinary actions on African American males.
The greatest thing that a father can do is to plead with their sons not to drop out of school. Education has always been the hope for African American males, whose ancestors were brought to America to work as slaves. American slaves were not white males or Hispanic males or Asian males. To use a term like people of color to describe the experience of African American males hides the unique experience of men and boys whose forefathers sole purpose in life was to serve both white males and Hispanic males doing hard labor as slaves in their origins in America. People tend to forget or do not know that the Amistad slaves were owned by a 12-year-old queen in Spain in the first major attempt for slaves to convince the American legal system that they should not be slaves.
In over 30 years of teaching African American males it is evident that these young men can be excellent students when taught by teachers who understand their history, culture, and socialization in American society. The fact that there are more African American males in prison than in college is a clear indication that most schools do not understand their problems living in America.
The images of the riots in Baltimore on April 27, 2015, clearly showed that it was African American males expressing their rage at what BCCC President Gordon F. May referred to as the voices of the unheard. They were not only unheard but as Ralph Ellison depicted in his epic work, The Invisible Man, they were also unseen and thrown into an abyss as people of color. The rioters in Baltimore on April 27, 2015, were black. The victims they rioted over were black. Cryor told the Year Up audience that black men have a problem asking for help. He did not say people of color have a problem asking for help. Cryor intentionally focused on black males because the test scores and dropout rates indicate they are not doing well. Year Up is giving the help that Cryor spoke of in his graduation speech.
Help Year Up to continue the incredible work of helping urban youth overcome the opportunity divide. It is a proven organization of integrity, commitment, and dedication to helping young people. Especially those who need it most.
Gerald Chertavian has served his nation well by creating a non-profit organization of honesty, commitment, and integrity that has been a beacon light of hope to 10,000 urban youth.
If you are interested in becoming a Year Up student go online to the Year Up website, select the urban center you wish to apply for, fill out the online application, and be prepared when Year Up contacts you for an interview. Be honest in your application. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Year Up wants to help you.
The author has covered Year Up for over a half decade. He was Professor of the Year at Howard University by the Undergraduate Student Assembly in 1998 and has taught over 10,000 students in 32 years. For more information on Year Up go to www.yearup.org.