I met Jermaine in the fall of 2012, when I started doing my leadership and team building trainings with the NYFC Youth Advisory Board. He had always been the strong, silent type in a generally rambunctious group of young people. He spoke on rare occasions, never once raising his voice. This school year, he joined my Emerging Leaders group and we set two goals for him: (1) to gain a better grasp on his core values so he could link them to purposeful work; and (2) to speak up more. I’m very happy to report that within this semester he has really shown great progress in both.

Now one thing about Jermaine that I didn’t know until this school year is that he has very wide ranging interests. In YAB he is known as the finance/economics/math guy, so he’s always top pick for treasurer. But he’s actually remarkably creative, as well. I got a taste of some of his creativity over the YAB summer retreat, when he started to tell the beginnings of a gripping ghost story by the campfire. Since then I’ve learned he’s also a self-taught musician and a voracious reader. He is the type who will always pursue knowledge for the sake of bettering himself, regardless of whether or not he is a student.

Given his wide ranging interests, Jermaine was overwhelmed at the start of the semester with numerous business ideas. Part of the trouble was that although he knew money was not his primary motivation, he wasn’t quite sure what his core value was. Lately, however, he’s been focused on youth development, specifically around the idea of connecting talented young people to career mentors and resources to help them launch creative careers. (I really want to rope him into the career development/networking part of my transition program.) This hustle combines his commitment to helping youth pursue meaningful work with his interest in creative endeavors and his resourcefulness.

Jermaine has also been noticeably more vocal. I am awestruck at how much research he’s been doing on social entrepreneurship, and how he generously shares this knowledge with his peers in YAB and Emerging Leaders. He’s also demonstrated a thorough assimilation of my lessons on project management because he gives suggestions such as “Start with the outcome you want from your program and work backwards from that” when other Emerging Leaders ask for advice on planning.

It’s been a very busy semester for Jermaine at NYU, so I am especially grateful for his level of engagement in Emerging Leaders and the amount of internal work he has done—something that is a challenge for anyone of any age. (Have I mentioned that there are no external incentives for him or any of the other young people in the group?) In spite of his schedule, Jermaine finds the time to send me kind and thoughtful emails responding to the resources that I send out to the group almost daily. One time he assured me that he appreciates and reads through everything I send, and that he shares certain articles with his brothers in NYU’s Gentlemen of Quality. Just yesterday he wrote me about the Kanye West interview on Sway in the Morning, pointing out how Kanye was leveraging his media influence to point to important “issues of power and opportunity divide.”

In the same email, Jermaine announced that now that he was done with classes for the semester, I should “prepare to hear from [him] more often!” He is amazing. I am so proud of his progress, and it is such a privilege watching him come into himself more fully.

1 Comment

Case in point | Minds On Fire · February 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

[…] and encourages them to speak up both in person and online, I am obsessed with listening to youth voices. The profound disconnect between the decision-makers and our young people would diminish if they […]

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