This week, we officially kickoff the consulting projects for our newest cohort of grantees. As we prepare, we invite you to get to know our grantees better (both old and new)! We start with a Q&A featuring Elijah Moses of Wise Young Builders, one of our newest grantees.
Describe your professional background and current job.
I have a colorful employment background. I started out working in marketing and promotions with a few start-ups in early 2000. Subsequently, I left to work in construction for about 5 years. Around 2005 I took an opportunity at the University of Buffalo and worked with youth helping them complete high school and enter college. Since leaving Buffalo in 2008 for DC, I have mostly worked in the trifecta of workforce development, education and construction all combined.
Tell us about your program that received support from DCSIP: what does your program do and what are its goals?
Wise Young Builders (WYB) is a unique enrichment program for youth ages 8-12. WYB uses carpentry to strengthen participant’s math skills. The program serves as a constant reminder to youth that they should be working to obtain knowledge and skills and visualizing their worth in life.
What accomplishments has your program made so far?
Wow. We’ve made a lot! We’ve been able to run our program for five years with no major funding, taught students to build carpentry projects from scratch, won several small grants, and negotiated development agreements for four spaces (Ward 8, Ward 5 and soon a summer camp space with a local college).
Any specific success story of a participant in your program that you’d like to share?
There are so many. We have one particular student, Zahir, who was so excited that he had built his first bookshelf. He placed it in the living room to show his father, darted upstairs to grab all of his books, and rushed downstairs to place them on the shelf. He was so happy. He’s also twelve years of age and taking algebra. We can’t totally take all the credit for that one though!
So many people see a problem in their community but don’t do anything about it; what motivated you to actually do something?
I love building and label myself a Social Architect. After teaching so many adults who have so many complications, a Frederick Douglass quote really helped enliven my vision: “It is easier to build strong boys, than to repair broken men.” Also, my mother convinced me that I could do anything as a child. I’ve never been an inert individual.
What did winning the early support from DCSIP mean to you personally?
It meant a lot. It meant that others were really taking us seriously and that we were well prepared for the opportunity. I remember the presentation day. I brought my son, who has been a part of the program for years. I think it meant a lot to me that he was able to see the efforts of hard work pay off.
What impact did DCSIP and the support you received have on your program? Did it help attract more resources or help your program grow in some way?
Since we’ve just gotten started, it remains to tell. I know that it is really going to help bolster our resources. Sometimes people support those who they know others support. We’ve been getting a lot of hits off of twitter.