Her Life, Her Leadership, Our Future

  • Yonkers HIgh School Senior De'Andre Brown was awarded one of two inaugural Vice Chancellor Emerita Adelaide L. Sanford Scholarships on May 6, 2019 at a New York State Board of Regents meeting.  Scholarship funds can be used to assist with tuition, fees and books and will be awarded annually over four years while the student is enrolled in college. De'Andre Brown, a New York State MBK Fellow and President of the Yonkers MBK Youth Advisory Council, is planning to attend New York University in the fall. 

     How has the work of Adelaide L. Sanford influenced the My Brother's Keeper (MBK) movement in New York State? How has her life influenced your future goals and aspirations and how have those influences impacted your life thus far?

     The life and career of Vice Chancellor Emerita Adelaide L. Sanford laid the groundwork for the formation of New York State’s pioneering My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative long before I became a part of it.

    For more than 60 years, Dr. Sanford worked tirelessly to ensure that all students, especially students of color like me, valued our African heritage, culture and, most importantly, ourselves. Dr. Sanford advocated for the inclusion of a variety of voices and perspectives in all aspects of education. She also had high expectations for students too often dismissed as unteachable. As she progressed from teacher to Principal to the Vice Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, her dedication, activism and high standards built up generations of her “beloved” young people. In my future, whether I decide to be a fashion designer or doctor of sports medicine, I want to be the best I can be. Dr. Sanford helped to make that possible. 

    Dr. Sanford founded the Board for The Education Of People Of African Ancestry to serve and support African-American and Caribbean-American students, parents and educators .  I believe she had a strong influence on Regent Lester Young, Jr., who might be considered a founder and overseer of New York State MBK. In fact, I believe Dr. Young is to New York State MBK as President Obama is to MBK nationally.

    As Regent Young builds the state’s MBK movement, it is up to young men like me to create change in my home community of Yonkers, New York.  As Dr. Sanford’s life shows, real change has to come from people already in the community, who have the credibility and support of those already there. In Yonkers, a lot of young men and women hang out on city corners and succumb to life on the streets. Selling and doing drugs and not going to college are the “cool things to do.”

    The My Brother’s Keeper initiative has helped us create a support system for those who need it and for ourselves.  It has brought a shine of hope. Those caught up in the ‘hood now have more opportunities to change their lives and succeed before they are consumed by the criminal justice system.

    When I discovered MBK as a sophomore at Yonkers Middle High School, I was struggling. I was mentally and emotionally down in the gutter due to some family problems. MBK helped support me and push me to where I am today – a New York State MBK Fellow, one of two students to represent Yonkers at the Obama Foundation’s national MBK Rising Summit, President of the Yonkers MBK Youth Advisory Council, founder of Neo, an after-school program to support teens in the arts, and college-bound senior.  

    I have worked well with middle schoolers, teens in high schools and even much older people -- when they see someone who has experienced what they have but is working to do better, it really inspires them to push harder. Yonkers MBK is growing every year, inspiring more and more people of color to change their communities and eventually change the world.

    Dr. Sanford is known as Queen Mother among her friends, family, students, mentees and fans. To me, she is the “Godmother of MBK.”