Raseem, at 25, has already accomplished a lot. He's a first-generation high school graduate in his family; he finished a bachelor's program at Saint Lawrence University for performance and communications arts; he was a door-to-door campaigner during election season. Did we mention he also spoke at the United Nations with representatives from Sweden and Honduras? And he's only getting started.
Raseem's journey began, in his opinion, more than 12 years ago when he started coming to our Beacon After-School Program. Based out of East Side Community High School, Beacon prides itself on fostering leadership skills and community-oriented dedication for children in elementary, middle and high school. People like Raseem demonstrate that one little spark can light a blaze of passion to last a lifetime.
"I started as a member at Beacon in the summer. Summer would start, and you don't really know what's going to happen or who you're going to meet. But when it ended… it's crazy how a couple of weeks can help you form bonds with so many people, or have such an amazing time. The companionship you feel and develop is just indescribable," Raseem says. "I just didn't know that at such a young age, it would be such a moving experience. It's been my one light."
Raseem returned every year, progressing to a group leader position during his college breaks. "Every year, I still came back. It really just became a place where I was always welcome, like coming back home." And while there, he decided to push for more programming that he felt had benefitted him as a member, like resume building and interviewing workshops. "The more I stayed there, the more confident I became in doing any kind of work. So many of the skills I learned as a member are still so useful today, and I know that these kids… they'll just feel the same way one day."
Along Raseem's path have been two incredible mentors – Monique Flores and Greg Robertson, both still staff members with University Settlement. "They have been such an inspiration; the mentorship has always been there, it's just a little different now. They're always pushing me to strive for more, and they've taught me to persevere, to always push for more," Raseem adds.
And Raseem's perseverance has paid off. Not one month after speaking at the United Nations 65th Annual DPI/NGO Conference, he was promoted to a senior group leader position, where he gets to supervise and support the younger group leaders. "I thought about doing other work after college, but this is a stepping stone. This is my career path, and I feel it more every day." Why keep at it, after so many years? "I just want to give the same light to others that Beacon gave me. Kids who have no place to go… I want to be their safe place. Their sun."
To hear more from Raseem, check out a video of his presentation at the United Nations.