Community Access Unlimited Youth Achievement Night Recognizes Tomorrow’s Future

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ELIZABETH – A goblet filled from a fountain of youthful talent and accomplishment was raised to young award winners at the 2010 Community Access Unlimited Youth Achievement Night June 23 in Elizabeth.

Youth members of the agency who demonstrated success during the year were recognized for a variety of accomplishments, from being responsible and well rounded and showing the most improvement to budgeting, academics and employment.  The agency’s 2010 high school graduates also were honored.

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CAU provides support and services to people with disabilities and at-risk youth. The agency each year helps more than 150 youth members improve their lives and directions through housing; training in employment and life skills, such as money management; and the introduction of a safe and secure environment, according to Sid Blanchard, CAU executive director.

“Youth Achievement Night is a chance to recognize the progress these young people make during the year,” Blanchard said.  “Our youth come to our program from very challenging life conditions.  We provide them with the opportunity to improve their lives through a stable environment, guidance and training.

“But we provide only the opportunity.  They do the work.  We hold them accountable for their actions and expect them to fulfill their commitments to the program, each other and themselves.  These awards recognize those efforts and their success.”

Sabrina Houseman received a Chuck D Award for academics.  Houseman recently graduated from Weequahic High School in Newark with a straight A-average for her last term.  She will be attending Kean University for nursing in the fall with aspirations of working with babies.  Houseman said receiving the award was recognition of her hard work, although she is humble about her academic accomplishments.

“I guess I just knew about what they were teaching,” she said.

Kenneth Archie received the Queen Latifah Award for Arts.  Archie writes poetry and free-style rap and also excels at creative Power Point presentations. He also works at CAU in the agency’s cafeteria and plans to return to school to earn his Graduation Equivalency Degree.

“When I was in eight grade one of my teachers inspired me to start writing,” he said.  “I started with poetry, then over that summer I started working with beat.  Then I put the two together.”

Archie hopes to pursue a career in entertainment.

Cleopatra Wingard, an assistant school principal in Jersey City, was the keynote speaker at the dinner and shared with the members the story of Harland David Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken who persevered after a challenging start to his career to become the world-famous Colonel Sanders.

“As you grow up and go to college, you will all be on different paths,” she told the audience.  “But if you stay focused, you will all end up successful.”

For many CAU youth members, that pathway to success begins taking shape with the Youth Achievement awards, according to Nijmima Coleman, director of CAU’s Transitional Opportunity Program.

“These awards are important to them because they feel they are not always recognized for the good things they accomplish,” she said.  “It gives them a whole new spirit.”

The awards also give spirit to those members who are not recognized, according to Coleman.

“They see how congratulatory it is for the winners,” she said.  “It gives them something to look forward to.  I’ve found they do a major turn-around so they can be congratulated.”


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