This Past Saturday the Bronx Youth Empowerment Program held its Youth Day Graduation Celebration Cookout. The event was full of excitement as we all braved the Sahara desert temperatures. Over 103 student graduates were recognized for their successful completion toward earning diplomas and degrees from elementary, middle school , high school, and college.
Christopher Cepeda, Anthony Moore, and Chinnel Hudson received the Youth Empowerment Award for their service to building mind, body, and community.
YEP member Chinnel Hudson received the ultimate praise from our keynote speaker Mayor Earnest D. Davis of Mt.Vernon for being the best of her class as the Valedictorian of School of Diplomacy (in the Richard R. Green Middle School Campus) with a 4.4 GPA (yes it does exist!)
For our elementary and middle school graduates, moving forward means attending the next level of education to a middle school or high school. But what does it mean for our high school graduates? My message to the students of the class of 2012 was moving forward and understanding the world. Leaving high school can bring a lot of uncertainty, but when you understand the world you learn how to make the decisions that will allow you to survive and grow in that world.
The worldview and outlook of a student graduating and living the south Bronx is different from a someone graduating and living in Scarsale NY. Growing up in Edenwald Houses is worlds away from being raised in Riverdale; living on 66th street and 3rd Ave in Manhattan is a whole different world than 149th St 3rd Ave in the Bronx and to many of these students attending college is light years away from the world of high school.
Some students will pursue higher education and some will not, but does not mean you cannot contribute to society. Not everyone will get a AA, BA, MA, PHD., but does not mean you cannot be a productive person.
I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony of the Forward School for Creative Writing and High School for Contemporary Arts. My message to the students and parents was "I Love Myself and I am Going to Help You". I share this message because when you love yourself you will make decisions that will improve your welfare, when you love yourself, you will not put things in your body that hurt you, when you love yourself, you can love others, when you love yourself you end up helping others instead of hating on anyone's personality or accomplishments.
Today our world need leaders and doers. I ask you, the Class of 2012, as you pursue your endeavors, learn to understand, decide, advocate, participate - generate don't complicate. Don't just be a product of the community, let the community be a product of you. That's WHAT'S NEXT.
Congratulations Class of 2012!
First Photo: Keynote Speaker Mayor Earnest D. Davis [middle] recieved the Service to Youth Award
Second Photo: Chinnel Hudson Valedictorian [middle] and Youth Empowerment Awardee
Third Photo: Christopher Cepeda [middle] recived the Youth Empowerment Award from YEP founders Andy and Neva King [left to right]