Growing up, my dream was to grow up and become a rapper. I first got involved with an afterschool program when a friend of mine said to me, "You've got to come to this afterschool program and meet this kid because you're both really good." We were only 14, so who knows how good I was or wasn't, but I was interested in rap and wanted to meet the guy my friend was talking about, so I went.
I joined Youth In Action because I was interested in rap, but pretty soon I got more and more involved with the program. I became the co-chair of the board and helped to raise over half-a-million dollars, to build a house for Youth In Action. Before I joined Youth In Action, I was in the streets after school, but being part of an afterschool program gave me more important and productive things to do. The Executive Director, Karen Feldman, took a keen interest in me and really supported me through the good and bad times.
When I graduated from high school I decided to take a year off and volunteer with Vista. When I got back, Karen called me to say she was leaving Youth In Action and that we should try to work together. Our afterschool program, Young Voices, really kind of came out of left field and I ended up working with Karen as the co-director. The Leadership Transformation Academy is a program for teenagers and it was a lot of hard work to get the program started, but I think one of the reasons I was so dedicated to it was that I know that this hard work is much better than the alternatives, which for me are dead or in jail. Young Voices is now two years old and we have about 30 kids enrolled.
It is not easy for me to balance college with being co-director of an afterschool program, and a leader in my community, but it is worth it. I also sit on 13 different city and statewide tables and commissions that look at youth issues. I am so blessed to have this job and be in this position that I am in. I now have all of this simply because I wanted to rap.