Program helps youth reach for dreams

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – As the nation paused Monday to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the strides he made in civil rights, one Western New York program used the day to help give hope to young people facing difficult odds.

Catholic Charities called it a “Day of Mentoring,” used to help young people pursue their dreams. It was his dream of equality and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s actions to follow through on that dream that caused a nation to search its own soul and strive to become a better country.

University at Buffalo Bulls wide receiver Fred Lee said, “You have to move forward. A bad trauma situation is only trauma if you allow it to be.”

Lee mentors young people overcoming adversity in their own lives, children like Faith Miskell, who grew up on an uneven playing field, in and out of foster homes and detention centers.

“I’ve seen people been robbed. I’ve seen people do drugs. I’ve done drugs obviously. I’ve seen somebody whose been raped, which obviously wasn’t the best,” Miskell said.

Angelica, another Jumpstart program participant, said, “I got arrested for breaking and entering, and it was supposed to be a felony, but they dropped it down to a misdemeanor.”

Both of these young people are part of an outreach program by Catholic Charities. Federal grants have provided them with mentors like Lee, who overcame his share of football injuries and, at an earlier age, learned something about anger management. Now he must try and reach these children on a deep level and help them turn around their lives.

“Dig deep and make them believe in themselves. Self perseverance is the key, and to not quit, not to give up, not to buy into what the world says. Not to be a quitter,” Lee said.

Dr. King helped turn around a nation. Lee is working on one citizen at a time, and some now say they want to even make a difference in the lives of others.

Angelica said, “I want to be a police officer, because they help people get through things.”

Miskell said, “Eventually I want to get into the FBI, but that’s a long way away.”

Darrell Slisz, who directs the program for Catholic Charities, said the greatest challenge is to convince students that what that see on the streets, does not have to be the way they live their lives.

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