Organization Aims to Help Young Men Succeed at the Next Level

Group One of Six to Complete Unique Training Program Now in 25th Year

May 22, 2019 – It was a text message that Sean Reed, Jr. would never forget and one that would ultimately inspire him, Alexander Grant and Erris Robinson to start UPSTAR Academy, an organization that provides mentoring, educational tutoring and athletic training to adolescent males. The message was from a child going through a serious situation at home.

“He very much needed a male influence in his life,” said Reed. “After I got off the phone with him, I described the situation to the guys and they were all on board to help. I left work early, jumped into my car and went right to the Dunbar Center.”

The student had been feeling alienated at home. His father, who had a strong street reputation, was incarcerated and his environment was encouraging him to head down a similar life path. Reed and his UPSTAR partners stepped in to help the teen see and reach his fullest potential.

UPSTAR now serves approximately 60 children. Each one of them brings a story that is relatable to Reed, Grant and Robinson. Growing up in extreme poverty, a majority of their friends have either passed away or are incarcerated. Determined to not be a statistic, the three of them set out to break the cycle. Their program offers mentoring, educational tutoring and athletic training to adolescent males in Syracuse and provides the young men with a structured support system to ensure they can face any number of challenges.

Now, Reed, Grant and Robinson, are ready to take their organization to the next level after recently graduating from The Leadership Classroom (TLC), an eight-month-long training program for grassroots organizations organized by the Central New York Community Foundation. Through intensive and interactive training sessions over eight months, TL

C teaches skills that helps groups become more effective leaders in their neighborhoods and communities. UPSTAR is a member of TLC’s 25th Anniversary class.

“TLC has been the perfect opportunity for UPSTAR Academy,” said Grant. “The skills that we learned are going to have a direct impact on the growth of our program. We came from a great starting point, but there was still much to learn.”

Over TLC’s 25-year history, nearly 450 individuals have graduated and more than $300,000$280,000 in small grants have been awarded toward the graduates’ community projects.

Over all, thirty-two leaders from six local grassroots and nonprofit organizations were a part of this year’s graduating class. In addition to UPSTAR, the following were part of the 25th anniversary class of TLC:

  • Baby Momma Association:  empowers women in our communities to pursue their dreams and learn to live a better quality of life. The six month program is designed to encourage and support women by giving them the tools, knowledge and resources to foster personal growth and inspire them to reach for their ambitions
  • Cuse Culture: strives to make CNY an ideal place for minority millennials and their families by providing services and programming to build hard and soft skills. Cuse Culture seeks to create an interactive academy that teaches participants how to organize people, power and change within their community.
  • North Side Learning Center: aids in adult and youth literacy development, and to be instrumental in teaching self-sufficiency and self-actualization to newcomers in our community. Students come from dozens of countries around the world and NSLC offers English literacy programs and academic support to young learners, as well as specific programs in digital and financial literacy, college prep, and sewing classes, amongst others.
  • Project LEADS (Leadership Education Among Diverse Stakeholders): transforms the lives of youth, and adults in the city via education and networking opportunities.
  • Sanchia A. Callender Inc: creates enriching life experiences for people with developmental disabilities and youth in residential care by advocating for better resources, educating communities and supporting the creation of service programs.

To view more photos of the graduation and the organizations features visit our album on Flickr.

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