Getting out of the ghetto is not easy; but it is not impossible either.
This is a lesson that Edison Jaquez, founder of a New Jersey-based youth mentoring program, B-Men, tried to convey to kids at the Jersey City Boys and Girls Club on Feb. 21 when he came to talk to kids about social responsibility and his own story.
An immigrant to America at an early age, Jaquez has become an inspirational entrepreneur who serves as a mentor and motivational speaker dedicated to educating and bringing community members together. By telling people how he managed to rise up from poor beginnings, he hopes to inspire others to do the same.
His program is geared towards today’s inner city men, 17 and older, and it is designed to educate and create positive influences.
Jaquez, who turned 40 last August, came to the United States with his family in 1990 from the Dominican Republic. He was 7 years old and grew up in the Stockton Street Projects of Perth Amboy.
He saw education as a pathway out from a bad situation. He managed to graduate from high school and enroll in Berkeley College, and come back to help mentor others.
“I talked to the kids (in Jersey City) about making the right choices and respecting elders.” -- Edison Jaquez
“I talked to the kids [in Jersey City] about making the right choices and respecting elders,” he said during an interview. “Growing up, I saw a lot of things, and I feel that my story relates to a lot of these kids, too.”
Part of the advice he had to offer was about not being a follower and listening friends who decide what is cool, when there are better choices kids can make.
“One of the messages in life is that every choice has consequences,” he said. “I want them to know that they should make their own choices and not to give up on their dreams just because other kids they’re hanging around with haven given up on theirs.”
Jaquez said education is a key to getting their dreams, and so is the determination to follow their own road.
The Jersey City Boys and Girls Club hosts a number of these events over the year, often designed to provide opportunities for the local youth.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.