By Rebecca Henely
Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at LaGuardia Community College last week to the graduating class of the CUNY Fatherhood Academy, a five-month program aimed at teaching dads ages 18 to 24 good parenting and putting them on the track to getting a GED or enrolling in college.
“Our Fatherhood Academy is something we’re very proud of,” Bloomberg said.
The academy is sponsored by the mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative, the goal of which is to improve prospects for black and Latino men in the city, and the Open Society Foundations, a grant organization headed by investor George Soros. Bloomberg went to the City University of New York with the idea for the program and LaGuardia volunteered to run it.
“We really have experience in youth, working with young people and getting them into college,” said CUNY Fatherhood Director Beth Lord on why LaGuardia volunteered.
She said the program has been funded for at least three years and is expected to graduate 200 students. The first class at LaGuardia, which graduated Sept. 12, included 22 students. Through the program 12 of them became permanently employed, four of them took and passed the GED exam and six of them enrolled as freshmen at LaGuardia.
In his colloquial and occasionally salty speech to the young men at commencement, Bloomberg shared some stories of his struggles as a parent and in the workforce. He said while his problems did not compare to the dark times some of the young men in the academy have faced — like being shot or serving time in prison — he urged them to be there for their families and told them they were a model for future students in the program.
“I don’t expect any of you to fall off the wagon,” Bloomberg said. “You’re not just doing this for yourselves. You’re doing this for your children.”
Jamaica resident Cory Shaw, 22, spoke during the commencement about how he had wanted to quit the program because he had to go to the 9 a.m. Academy classes after getting out of work overnight at a stockroom at 6 a.m. But Shaw said on the day he did not show up, Program Coordinator Raheem Brooks called him and asked him to come back.
He is now working at Macy’s and has enrolled in LaGuardia as an industrial design major.
“If it wasn’t for y’all, I wouldn’t be in college,” Shaw said to the staff.
Shaw also read a poem he dedicated to his 2-year-old daughter Nivaya.
Harlem resident James Kimble, 24, said when he was young he was a criminal, marijuana abuser and group home resident, but since he was released from prison he has worked hard to turn his life around. He is now enrolled in LaGuardia and John Jay colleges, is a part of a small business program for those with criminal histories and is dedicated to helping be a better father to his daughter Serenity, 5.
“It provided me an opportunity I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Kimble said of the program.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.