Brian Cahill Moledo, December 15th, 2017
For eight years CUFFH's youth program, GROW, has successfully helped neighborhood youth realize their potential as organizers within their community. Now GROW is spearheading a project to bring social justice into Bushwick-area students' school curricula.
Many GROW alumni came to the program after experiencing homelessness or spending time in the correctional system. Giovanni Matos and Ausar Burke, CUFFH's youth organizers, work to make GROW's attendees realize that the system that failed them can be changed.
When he began working with schools, Giovanni Matos, CUFFH's Lead Youth Organizer, noticed tensions between English and Spanish-speaking students. Since then, he has been working to build bridges between students by critiquing the entities that hold actual material power in their communities.
In addition, Gio is developing a social justice curriculum with active input and support from faculty at the Academy of Urban Planning and Engineering--fine-tuning the program to find out what works and what doesn't in time for 2018, when he plans to expand the educational program into CUFFH's member churches.
Despite the academic inroads being made, GROW remains grounded in its origins as a community basketball program. At any time thirty to forty kids from the local community have a safe place where they eat and play basketball on Friday nights. While providing a stable community space, CUFFH Youth & Community Organizer Ausar Burke works to organize them into a group capable of collective action.
Ausar is a staunch believer in the program's mission and ability to change lives. His faith comes from experience--he had his first interaction with Churches United for Fair Housing as a GROW participant. He now teaches youth the skills necessary to critique the deprivation in their communities.
Through education and organizing training, GROW helps young people threatened by systemic deprivation grow into a cadre with the awareness and ability to alter their community's relation with the institutions that marginalize them.