Yonkers Has Leading Role at MBK Youth Summit

  • The chill of an early winter morning did little to cool the excitement radiating from the yellow school busses lined up in front of the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York on December 16.  More than 200 Yonkers My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) students joined 500 peers from around the Lower Hudson Valley at the Second Annual MBK Youth Leadership Summit, a day of workshops and presentations aimed at preparing them for successful futures.

     “Yonkers MBK students were instrumental in making the event a success,” said Rev. Dr. Jim Bostic, Chairman of the Lower Hudson Valley MBK Alliance, a coalition of eight regional MBK communities that accepted former President Barack Obama’s MBK Community Challenge to enhance life opportunities and outcomes for young men of color.

    Lehman College student Nomar Rijos, a 2018 MBK graduate of Yonkers Middle High School, helped register and organize Yonkers students from 18 elementary, middle and high schools at the summit, which was hosted by the Alliance in partnership with the Westchester County Youth Bureau.

    Yonkers MBK students from Gorton High School and Saunders Trades and Technical High School, including New York State MBK Fellows Keymel Washington and Giovanni Almonte, led well-attended workshop sessions on Mental Wellness.  Through interactive presentations, they conveyed the importance of developing self-awareness, removing social masks and cultivating trust among their MBK brothers and mentors.  

    Keymel Washington, a Gorton High School senior, also shared his positive experiences with the My Brother’s Keeper movement in Yonkers. “MBK gave me opportunities like a summer job and helped me change as a person,” he said.

    “Yonkers’ magnificent young men demonstrate leadership, even as they develop their own potential for greatness,” said Yonkers Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edwin M. Quezada, Co-Chair of Yonkers MBK with Rev. Dr. Bostic.  In addition to Dr. Quezada, several educational leaders attended to support the MBK movement.  Dr. Lester Young, Jr., New York State Regent-at-Large and Dr. Anael Alston, New York State Education Department Assistant Commissioner of Access, Equity and Community Engagement offered words of encouragement to the student attendees.  Dr. Tahira A. Dupree Chase, Greenburgh Central School District’s Superintendent, served as an organizer and Master of Ceremonies with Rev. James N. Hassell, Pastor of Yonkers’ Kingdom Christian Cultural Center. Andre G. Early, Town of Greenburgh Commissioner of Community Resources and Ernest L. McFadden, Westchester County Youth Bureau Program Administrator, co-chaired the event.

    Summit workshops covered a range of topics including Building Relationships, Elements of Manhood, Male Ego/Self-Esteem, the Scholar Athlete, Social-Emotional Well-Being, and Time Management.  Westchester County Department of Corrections First Deputy Commissioner Louis A. Molina led sessions about Social Justice conveying the importance of conducting oneself with respect and knowing one’s rights when communicating with law enforcement officers.

    “Our workshop facilitators and speakers shared powerful messages that gave the young men a lot of food for thought in their personal lives, careers and life circumstances,” said Rev. Dr. Bostic.

    Keynote speaker Bishop David G. Evans told his story of overcoming obstacles early in life. Bishop Evans was raised in the Fairground Projects of Philadelphia after his family parted ways with an abusive alcoholic father.  His mother worked three jobs, attended college and helped him rise above otherwise trying circumstances. Bishop Evans earned university degrees in economics and business; built a career in the corporate world and eventually took up his calling as a minister.  

    “It’s not where you start,” he said. “It’s where you finish.”  

    Rev. Dr. Bostic shared a similar message with attendees who represented 15 school districts including East Ramapo, Elmsford, Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant Cottage, Mount Vernon, Newburgh, New Rochelle, Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, Ossining, White Plains, Yonkers and Southern Westchester BOCES, as well as New York City, Ithaca, and Monticello.

    As an infant, Rev. Dr. Bostic was given up for adoption with no father’s name on his birth certificate. Raised by his adoptive family in Yonkers, Rev. Dr. Bostic was teased for being short and overweight, eventually losing sight in one eye after bullies hit him in the face with a lump of ice.  Defying naysayers, he turned a growth spurt, academic discipline and a love of basketball into a college scholarship and positions with the Kansas City Kings and Detroit Pistons. When his NBA career was cut short by injury, he was academically prepared to pursue a career as a teacher, basketball coach and non-profit organization executive director.

    To further illuminate Rev. Dr. Bostic’s experience, John J. Sosa Aguilar, a Yonkers Montessori Academy senior and New York State MBK Fellow, participated in a panel discussion on the main event stage with five other state fellows. He asked Dr. Bostic how he persevered in the face of so many obstacles.

    “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do,” Rev. Dr. Bostic said. “No human being can measure what is in your heart. You cannot live anyone else’s dream but your own.”