From Near Defeat to Triumph
By the time Javon Gay was in 6th grade, he was his baby sister’s caretaker. While their mom worked, Javon fixed his sister’s breakfast, combed her hair, and got her to school on time. He also found an after-school job – learning how to survive in a rough neighborhood.
By 18 he had been in juvenile detention and dropped out of school. By 21, he was working a low-wage job and felt stuck.
Then Javon got arrested for driving on a suspended license. At first, it was just another thread in his long-running string of bad luck and bad choices, until he saw an Urban League of Greater Atlanta’s (ULGA) Urban Youth Empowerment Program (UYEP) poster.
“I had never heard of the League a day in my life. But that poster made me want to get involved, to make something of myself. I went in the very next day,” Javon recalled.
Javon was coached first to set his sights on the most important step to achieving his goals: passing the GED exam. In November 2014, Javon earned his GED, passing the test on his first attempt.
For Javon, this outreach is all a part of his larger plan to care for youth. “I also want to give back and to thank people who are helping me reach my highest potential,” he says.
In June 2015, Javon was honored with three other young men for their achievements at the Urban League of Greater Atlanta’s annual Spirit of the League awards ceremony.
When accepting the honor, Javon said, “When I came to the Urban League, I had no direction. But because of the support and guidance they provided me, I have my GED and enrolled at Atlanta Metropolitan College to study to become a dentist.”
On a better path
UYEP is much more than a training program. It takes a holistic approach to educationally and professionally develop young men and women, ages 18-24 who either did not complete high school or have had a brush with the law.
The program also offers daily access to caring, compassionate and supportive adult case managers – known to the youth in the program as “Empowerment Advocates” and “Peer Advocates” who help youth address and overcome challenges along the way so they can stay on course to succeed.
“The participants come to us with limited skills to compete in the marketplace. We help them connect with their talents, passion and purpose in the form of a career pathway, secure the education and training they need to embark on the career, secure employment and gain the valuable life skills that they need to succeed,” said Tracey Mosley, program director of the ULGA Empowerment Center.
Since 2013, UYEP has helped 115 young people enter education and jobs programs that are putting them on the path to economic stability and positive contribution to their communities.
A Helping Hand
Through the contribution of many community members, including State Farm employees, ULGA has come a long way toward empowering our youth and stabilizing communities that have been hit hard by crime and economic downturns.
“They represent so much talent and untapped potential. There are more than 90,000 of what we term as ‘at-opportunity’ youth in our region who need what UYEP has to offer,” shared State Farm Agent Cedric Taylor, a supporter and volunteer. “When we support youth and young adults to succeed, we not only reach their generation, we also support the next generation of parents and their children to live quality lives and contribute to our communities.”