Article submitted by Armand King, Paving Great Futures
After a lifetime of witnessing the effects of structural inequality and racism, and a short prison stint, the founders of Paving Great Futures were inspired to lead their family, friends and peers down a better path. Living in a community that is disproportionally affected by high unemployment rates, high recidivism rates, high poverty rates, and low graduation rates, founders Barry Harris Jr., Jay Bowser and Armand King focus on empowering their community through economic development and helping community members create better lives for themselves.
On June 16th, Paving Great Futures will host the Youth Hip Hop Summit, which brings youth together to write raps with meaningful substance, mentored by rappers from the area. Youth between the ages of 12 and 17 will learn about the music business, unity, conflict resolution, continuing their education, and responsible life skills. There will also be a song-writing contest, where the winners will receive a free professional production of their song and music video, and an onstage performance at an upcoming community event.
Paving Great Futures is currently working to set up classes at correctional facilities in San Diego so that recently released individuals may have an easier time transitioning. Working with the County of San Diego's Probation Department, police departments and others, Paving Great Futures is working diligently to get their prison education system into place.
“I’ve always thought that to combat racism and the insidious effects of it, that judicial action had to be taken. That a president had to mandate executive orders or a bill had to be passed to equal the playing field,” said Nicole Nazari, a program volunteer. “But Paving Great Futures has shown me that a grassroots movement, even just a few people, can use their power of voice and passion to do much more and reach a large sphere of people.”
To provide an avenue for participants to develop both hard and soft employment skills, Paving Great Futures also administers CHAMP: Culinary, Hospitality, Administrative and Management Project. CHAMP uses the culinary industry to train at-risk individuals who are striving to improve their lives. This 9-month long program has been running since 2013. Participants are trained on all aspects of food service from culinary skills, operating a mobile food service business, and managing human resources. As part of the program, students learn from guest chefs, create business plans and learn to prepare food for catering opportunities.
“If not for Paving Great Futures I would have been back on the streets or in prison," said Vincent Stalcup, a recent participant. “They've changed my life around and I even have a business model for my own restaurant. I finally get to be role model for the people in my life, including my little girl.”
By creating job opportunities through CHAMP, volunteering in the neighborhoods, and being steadfast positive influences on youth, Paving Great Futures is making a significant impact on the health, knowledge, standard of living and wellbeing of fellow community members. For more information about Paving Great Futures, visit www.pavinggreatfutures.org.