A look at why I choose to support the youth in my community
As the son of a high school English teacher and factory worker, my parents made clear to me as a child that education was my top priority and a stepping stone to a better life. Nonetheless, they realized that they could not sustain my focus alone. My parents depended heavily on local volunteers from the marching band, my church, oratorical contests and a variety of other outlets to ignite a hunger for success. Realizing that resources and opportunities are fewer now for teens than what I received in the 1990’s, I’m compelled to support the well-being of youth through my career, volunteerism and philanthropy.
Each day I have the opportunity to work closely with non-profit programs as a fundraiser for United Way of Greater Atlanta. It was in that role that I learned of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 1.5 year waiting list for boys to receive male mentors. I signed-up immediately and was matched with a shy – but smart – 6th grader named Stephen. In the years to come, he and I would explore many exciting activities – white water rafting, Medieval Times and even driving lessons. Through his innocence, he likely taught me more about “life” than I taught him. Yet, 10 years later, I’m so proud of his accomplishments as he graduated #8 in his high school class of 400+ with a full scholarship to Berea College in Kentucky. Now in his junior year, he’s completing a double major in Business and Art.
I’m also both inspired and grateful to be a member of the National Philanthropy Day (NPD) steering committee. NPD honors the accomplishments of youth by presenting the Teen Volunteer of the Year Award at their annual luncheon hosted by the Atlanta Association of Fundraising Professionals that draws 1,000+ attendees. This year’s 1st place winner, Max Rubenstein, is a 16-year-old Junior in High School attending The Galloway School in Atlanta, Georgia. Max was nominated for Game Givers, an organization he started providing games to sick children in hospitals through tournaments and donations of new and used video games.
Whether it’s Max or the young man I mentor, our youth must be given the tools they need to reach their full potential. The reason I give back to my community is because when children thrive communities thrive. Share Your Why by emailing [email protected].
Bryan Vinson is the Director of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership. He can be reached at [email protected].