Written by Shayleen Kennedy
The Achieving Independence Center or AIC is a “one-stop” shop designed to assist foster care youth ages 14-21, in achieving their goals of self-sufficiency. Five separate agencies, Planned Parenthood, Mural Arts, the Department of Human Services, Valley House Youth, and Temple University, work in harmony with one another to provide AIC members with the skills and resources they need to transition into adult life. Temple University began providing educational assistance at AIC in the 1980s and they continue on today. Temple employees and student interns offer everything from homework help to assistance with college applications and finical aid resources. As Harold Brooks, AIC’s program coordinator, heartfeltly stated, “the Achieving Independence center acts as parents to its 444 youth members.”
The center frequently hosts events for members to participate in. This past February, in celebration of Black History Month, the center hosted a series of workshops with the overarching theme, “Black Like Me.” The purpose of this workshop series was to expose youth to everyday African American professionals who are making a difference in their community. Over a hundred youth attended workshops throughout the month. Speakers from a multitude of industries including healthcare, non-profit, finance, entrepreneurship, culinary, fashion and education, provided not only information but inspiration to the youth in attendance. The ultimate goal of “Black Like Me” was to share stories of achievement and perhaps barriers on the path to success in the hopes of instating motivation and encouraging AIC members to take control of their lives. It is through events like “Black Like Me” and the daily operation efforts of all agencies involved, that AIC has and will continue to provide pathways to a stable filling life to the foster care youth of Philadelphia.
Keynote Speaker: Gabrielle Taylor
When one meets Gabrielle Taylor, the first words that come to mind are “free spirit.” Ms. Taylor embarked on her journey with the Achieving Independence Center when she began attending Temple University. She started out as a member and after three years, when she aged out of the program, was hired by AIC as a tutor. At Temple Ms. Taylor studied Social Work. With graduation on the horizon, she concluded Social Work was not for her, however with encouragement from Harold Brooks, AIC’s program coordinator, she obtained her bachelor’s. Even though she has no real plans to go into Social Work as a profession, her degree has proved useful in pursuing her dreams. When her tenure with Temple and AIC concluded she decided she wanted to travel. A week after graduating Temple she moved to Spain to be an au pair. While there she immersed herself in the culture and even learned Spanish. She became an elementary school teacher in Spain. She then moved onto Germany learning the language and the customs. In the three years since graduating Temple Gabrielle has become a true globe trotter.
France, Italy, Iceland, China, Japan, Sweden, honestly it would be easier to list the places she has not been. Now she finds herself back in Philadelphia, back at AIC, back at the root of it all. She is no longer a member or an employee, no she has returned as a true success story eager to pass on her wisdom. Tonight she is the keynote speaking at “Black Like Me,” an AIC event. What is she planning on speaking to the AIC members about? Self-worth and having nothing to lose. As someone who believed in herself enough to follow her dreams, self-worth is something she certainly knows a lot about. Ms. Harris may not have it all figured out in terms of what she wants professional speaking, but she is following her dreams regardless. I am sure that sometime in the future she will once more find herself at AIC to share all she has learned with its members.
For more information or to get involved: Achieving Independence Center 1415 North Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19107 Phone: 215-574-9194 ext.232 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com