Youth Development Program Peer Leader’s Hard Work & Heart Paying Off

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Our Youth Development Programs (YDP) strives to empower students ages 13 – 19 years old by equipping them with the life skills and the support system they need to excel. Through workshops with a strong arts component, we have helped hundreds of youth find their voice and gain the confidence they need to make positive, impactful changes in their communities. That is why it is always a huge reward for us, when we see our YDP participants recognized for their hard work.

Oladipupo, or Ladi, is a 17-year-old YDP Peer Leader who grew up on the border of Dorchester and Mattapan; currently a senior at Boston Latin Academy, Ladi was awarded with the Posse scholarship and plans to attend Denison University to study computer science this fall. Though we’re sad to say goodbye to Ladi, we’re so proud of what he has accomplished. So, before he graduates, we sat down with him to talk about what his plans are for the future and what IBA and YDP mean to him.

How did it feel when you got accepted to Denison and received the Posse Scholarship?

It’s not a full scholarship, but it’s pretty much full. Dennison is a primarily white school and the [Posse] scholarship is awarded to mostly urban kids so there can be a bit more diversity in the schools. But, I felt relieved, I felt happy. I was relieved of all the stress honestly. I saw all [my peers] running around trying to find their colleges, but I knew my college four months before other people did. They would say, “Oh man, you got into college already? I still haven’t even gotten into college yet.”

Why is it important to you to pursue a degree in computer science and go to college?

I love computer science and I’ve always believed higher education is the best route you can take in life. You can be more comfortable in life if you go to college and be able to get a job you might have never had [otherwise].

How do you think the youth program helped you reach your goal of going to college?

This program totally directed me in the right direction. This year, I reached my low low low points and [everyone in] this program, they helped me throughout the way with everything going on.

What are 3 words you would use to describe what the YDP means to you?

Supportive. Artistic. Inspirational.

Tell us more about the “Artistic” element that you mentioned? Do you consider yourself an artist and a poet?

Of course everyone writes poetry in school, and I’ve analyzed poetry in school, but, that’s it. I never really wrote poetry before. I’ve never considered myself a poet and I still kind of don’t, but Pedro, [our YDP Coordinator], is encouraging me to call myself a poet.
Tell us about your poem “Hello is all it Takes*”. Where did you get your inspiration from? Were you thinking of real life scenarios when you wrote it? 

I got the information from a movie we watched about African American men being targeted to be put in jail. [And] yes, of course! In my life, when I’m walking down the street, people will turn around, look at me, and sometimes, they walk faster. One time, a girl actually ran because she tripped and got scared that I was walking behind her, and I’m like, “I’m just walking home.”

*Read the full poem here.

Can you give us a little preview of what to expect at Paredes En Fuego and perform “Hello is All it Takes*” for us?

*Read the full poem here.

What will you miss the most about the program?

I’m going to miss the people. Everyone here, they all have this positive, positive outlook on life. They always try to push you in the right direction and is so welcoming when you come into the program.

Do you think you will come back to visit and help future teens the same way YDP has helped you?

Yes, of course! I’m always down for people finding their artistic abilities and finding ways to tell their story own. [And] of course I’m going to come back to help out.

What would you say to your peers who might be hesitant to join the program?

First of all, I think no one should be hesitant about joining the program. But honestly, it’s not structural, you have someone, you have people that support you all the way, and you get paid to find yourself.

We want to congratulate Ladi on a bright future and thank him for the hard work and heart that he has brought to our Youth Development Program. If you want to get to know more of our Youth Peer Leaders and witness more inspiring poetry and visual artworks, come and celebrate the opening of Paredes en Fuego – our annual youth art exhibition, opening tomorrow, May 11th. Let us know to expect you and RSVP now by clicking here.

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