As part of a new recurring series, today we are happy to share an interview with Fenton Joseph, a Dreamer Alumnus, who shares his past experiences as a Dreamer and his current career and life pursuits. Many thanks to Fenton!
Name: Fenton Joseph
Dreamer Cohort: Old Westbury; Jefry Rosmarin, Sponsor
What did you think about “I Have A Dream” – New York when you were in school? To sum up my impression of the “Dreamers” in one word, it would be: fortunate. This may seem counterintuitive, given the backgrounds of the youth that the program typically caters to; however, I knew that the Dreamers had more than just tuition assistance going for them. They had people who cared about them so much that they donated their time and money to ensure their wellbeing and success. That is such a blessing.
What High School did you attend, and what year did you graduate? Westbury Senior High School, 1999.
What are you doing now? I currently help manage the pro audio design firm that I co-founded in 2010, Ronin Applied Sciences. We design and manufacture microphones, microphone pre-amplifiers, and other high-end audio technology. I am also a communications professional specializing in branding. Above and beyond all other endeavors, I am planning my wedding for March of 2015!
How would you explain the “I Have A Dream” program to someone who had never heard of it? The “I Have A Dream” Foundation is an amazing organization dedicated to helping youth in generally low income communities achieve their potential, through mentorship (from elementary to high school and beyond) and tuition assistance. But it’s so much more than that. IHDF-NY works to give youth what they really need to be all they can be: relationship.
How did being a Dreamer affect you? I think that being a Dreamer really focused my desire to give back in some way. I have always been altruistic, you know, the kind of guy who helps old ladies across the street. Just the other day I saw someone transporting a mattress on the roof of his car and it had fallen off. I ran over to help him put it back on. He didn’t have rope, so I don’t know if it fell off again when he drove off but I did what I could! The selflessness expressed by my own mentors definitely helped point my altruism in the direction of youth. I remember the talks I had with my mentors and how much I appreciated having someone to talk to, someone who was just willing to listen. Sometimes, lending an ear can make all the difference to a young person. I’ve been told that I am a great listener. I’m sure being a Dreamer had something to do with that.
What were some of your favorite memories about being a Dreamer? Raphael Santiago was our on-site program coordinator. Many of us affectionately referred to him as Santiago, and he really helped bring the program to life. I remember walking down the "dead end" hall where his little office was tucked away. It was the only office in that hallway, so only the Dreamers went back there. It was kind of special to have a little place to go to. We loved spending time there chatting with him, so much so that he often had to kick us out and remind us that we needed to go to our classes! I still consider Santiago a very good friend.
Another fond memory was participating in a tutoring/mentorship program at a local elementary school. After school was out, a few Dreamers would stop by Powell's Lane Elementary School in Westbury and spend time with some really special children. We would help them with homework and partake in fun activities. This was the first time that I felt the joy of working with children. They were always excited to see us, and we were just as excited to see them. I had the pleasure of participating in this program for about two years. I don't remember the names and faces, to be honest, but I will never forget the feeling of joy that comes with helping a child. There's nothing quite like it.
Are you still involved with “I Have A Dream” – New York? How? Yes I am. In January of 2014, I became a member of the Junior Board of Directors for the IHDF-NY chapter. It has been extremely humbling and inspirational to meet the people who donate their time and energy to this great organization, and I sincerely look forward to contributing to IHDF-NY’s success, as well as spending quality time with the current class of Dreamers.
If you are a Dreamer Alum who would like to share your story for the blog, please contact Thierry Cazeau at firstname.lastname@example.org