The Golden Era of Youth Development
On December 4th, I attended the Partnership for After School Education’s (PASE) Richard Murphy Leadership Award Ceremony. Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins received the inaugural award. Richard Murphy was a social policy innovator and one of the inventors of the community schools approach to youth development. Richard believed that we must all take responsibility for each other—especially the powerless and most vulnerable—our youth.
The audience was comprised of many notable individuals of today and the golden era of youth development’s movement. While waiting for the Alison Overseth, PASE’s Executive Director’s opening remarks, I reflected on my start as a youth development professional working at the Double Discovery Center at Columbia University (DDC) back in 1986. I represented DDC on the West Side Task Force for Youth, a coalition of youth services providers that included Geoffrey Canada and Joe Stewart (Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families in New York) Alfonso Wyatt and John Bess, (Manhattan Valley), Tom Pendleton (DOME Project), Stephanie Pinder (Goddard Riverside) and me, the youngest of the group. Richard Murphy would sit in on meetings hosted at Rheedlen. Looking back at what my time with these individuals and others—Luis Garden Acosta (El Puente) and Moises Perez (Alianza Dominicana), Paula Martin (Harlem Center for Education) did for my career and for me as a person, reminds me that it takes the leadership of many to create change. The first job of a leader is to build and support other leaders and this is an important part of the work at Zone 126.
After the event, I reconnected to peers of mine from this golden age of youth development. While speaking with Eddie Silverio, (Catholic Charities/Alianza), Aldrin Bonilla, (Deputy Manhattan Borough President), and Sandino Sanchez (Children’s Aid Society), Geoffrey Canada approached us and said: “Those days were the golden era of youth development and you guys are in a class by yourselves.” We were mentored by the giants in the field and continue to serve New York City’s young people to the best of our abilities.
On January 27, 2018, Zone 126 will host its first Youth Summit to continue the legacy of Richard Murphy and Zone 126 advisory board member Michael G. Officer who passed away on December 4th, 2017. Their commitment to our young people will never be forgotten.
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