Spotlight on The Urban League Gala Extravaganza 2013

| December 18, 2013
Jeanie Summerville

Jeanie Summerville


Part one of two

Whatz up babies?

Do I have a treat for you! This week and next week we bring to you your early Christmas present to fill your hearts with joy, happiness and excitement. I was in attendance at the Fort Wayne Urban League Gala Extravaganza 2013, on Saturday, Nov. 16, so I could see and feel the beauty and bring it to those of you that weren’t in attendance and hopefully, while reading this, you’ll feel the beauty too. Because you’re going to be informed why the Gala exists, how the community Lions who are honored during the celebration are chosen, as well as, how the youth are chosen for unrestricted scholarships. But before I bring Jonathan C. Ray, M.S.W., president/CEO of the Fort Wayne Urban League and Regenia Frison-Jones, the Guild president of the Urban League to you, I’m going to share a message from the board chair and president that was provided to us from the Urban League that evening and this is what it read:

“Dear Members, Friends and Supporters. We are at a crossroad in our city. Some parts of our community are living in an unsafe and unhealthy environment. We have a great responsibility in Fort Wayne because our future and our children are counting on us. On the whole, we live in a peaceful community. However, some of our citizens are living in a culture of violence. We feel strongly that in order to wipe out these inequalities in peace and opportunity, we must all work together. We believe each individual has the capacity for self-determination, self-help and personal improvement. But, we also know you can’t do it by yourself. For self-determination efforts to be successful, we must create opportunities for working together and increase the positive consequences of community action. Addressing, what matters to local people–good health, education and jobs, for example–is beyond any one of us. Community life is enhanced when individual strengths are joined in common purpose–an expression of the principle of interdependence. We are interconnected: each of us has a responsibility to make this a good city for all of us.

“The Urban League is working to bring about true community collaboration to promote a change in our city. During the 2012 year, we helped 276 families avoid foreclosures, provided more than 700 individuals with job related services (131 people received living wage jobs), more than 300 children received mentoring and tutorial services at the Urban League and we opened our first charter school-Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy. The Urban League community impact has been greater than $30 million dollar in 2012 based on the aforementioned programs alone. To make a difference it will take all of us and those doing community work, must be in it for the long haul. This transition can only occur if we collaborate and layer our approach realizing that we all can make a big difference together. Please be aware the Fort Wayne Urban League is committed to being your servant leader.

“Sincerely, Jonathon C. Ray and Leroy Jackson, Board Chairman”

On that note, we proudly bring to you our president/CEO of the Urban League, so you‘ll know a little bit more and how the Lions are chosen and this is what he has to say:

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers. The Gala Extravaganzas that we bring are a combination of what we do over the year and we celebrate the fact that we’re helping people through our various programs that are listed above. The way our Lions are chosen, a small group of Urban League Board members and myself look at a list of potential people who has demonstrated staying power, in terms, of doing what they do over a period of time to impact the community and change community culture. People that has demonstrated the leadership and ability to change culture by the things that they’ve done that has impacted the community. This year’s Lions that were honored are Dr. Alan McGee, Pat Miller, Judge Stephen Sims and George Smith.”

FWUL Guild President Regenia Frison-Jones addresses the crowd. (Photo: Mel Johnson)

FWUL Guild President Regenia Frison-Jones addresses the crowd. (Photo: Mel Johnson)

Now we bring to you the Fort Wayne Urban League Guild president and this is what she has to say:

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers. My name is Regenia Frison-Jones and for the past four years I’ve lead the Guild and it’s the auxiliary of the Fort Wayne Urban League. Our mission is to support the mission and the projects of the Urban League. Our primary focus this year and last year has been on youth and leadership development. So, we’re showcasing youth and raising money throughout the year for them. We held our first Masquerade Ball earlier this year and we raised about $5,000 from that event and we’re going to give back to the youth.

“Our Gala Extravaganza, was a wonderful success and this is something we’re looking to do ongoing because we want to be able to award the youth, that have done good things in the community and hopefully by doing this, we’re going to be able to award more money and the funding, is unrestricted. Some people struggle with that because generally, when youth receive scholarships or grants, it’s goes towards tuition and book fees but our scholarships are for everyday cost of living expenses. So that evening the four youth that received an unrestricted $500 check were DiQuaysha Martin, Admiria Cooper, Mariesha Carter and Kierra Curry.

“The criteria for youth to be considered as a scholarship recipient is: You have to be involved in the Urban League or the Urban League Guild in some kind of way; You have to give back to your community with at least 20 to 30 hours of community service; You must be a current college student full-time with a grade point average of at least a 2.7 on a 4.0 scale; You will have to write a two-page essay on what you did in the community and how those experiences shaped you and defined your life.

The Bluenotes, featuring Donnell Gillespie, Rufus Thorne, Anthony Brooks and John Morris, perform for Gala attendees. (Photo: Mel Johnson)

The Bluenotes, featuring Donnell Gillespie, Rufus Thorne, Anthony Brooks and John Morris, perform for Gala attendees. (Photo: Mel Johnson)

“This year’s essays were simply beautiful, they brought tears to my eyes because these youth really get it! They understand the importance of service and they understand the importance of
giving back, what has been given to them. To give you an example, one of the scholarship recipients wrote how she has learned to dream big and that the sky is the limit and not just be in a box because anything you want to do, you can do it, if you believe in yourself and she also talked about purpose. Having a purpose and a passion for life and all of that touched me because these kids are so young and they recognize these morals, these value and they believe in that. While I was presenting them their scholarships, I teared up a bit again because they all had some challenges in their life and despite that, they knew that higher education was the key. Those are the type of youth that we want to get behind, invest in and pour into them.

“I have a passion about youth, that if you believe in them and you pour into them, you best believe they will not let you down. If you give them a platform to shine, they will rise to the occasion. My background is social service and I’ve been working with youth half of my life and so I know youth and I’ve seen it. I seen what it does for a child when you believe in them. And, we need to build our children up and have them feel comfortable with who they are, within their own skin and I think that starts with learning their history, especially for African American children. Because they need to have something and/or someone that they can be proud of.

“I also want to encourage all youth to have a mentor (an experienced advisor and supporter) because it’s very important. I think that having a mentor is the key to youth success because youth can apply what they learn from their mentors into their own lives. Because sometimes our youth, don’t have the support or the access from their families and that’s why we have to support them so they will know that we believe in them. And, I think that we as adults, need to set better examples for not only our children but for all students. Sometimes, even from my own children at some point and time, outside people had a little bit more pull than parents. Because youth say, that their parents are going to nag and so I’ve had the community help me with my children because the same thing coming from outside people, sometimes our children are more receptive to listen at certain times in their lives. That’s what we must realize, we have to come together as a community to support our youth and not just worrying about our kids and our family because it’s a community thing and that’s what I think we’ve gotten away from.”

So until next week, when part two of the Urban League Gala Extravaganza 2013 comes to you with photos and comments from the scholarship recipients, photos of some attendees, information on Bill Blanks and scholarships that are in his honor, as well as more interesting information, you’ve been up close with Jeanie. Bye, bye babies.

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