By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson, Jr. and his EJS Project nonprofit organization in Delray Beach are on a mission to build and empower future leaders. Now COVID-19 and the racial justice movement have provided EJS Project youth opportunities to lead change.
Started as a “kitchen table nonprofit” just a few years ago, the EJS Project is now serving 250 teens a year from vulnerable communities, providing them with supportive relationships and equity of opportunity to promote change in individuals, organizations and systems.
Jackson sees how meaningful the experiences have been to the EJS Project teens. “As a lifelong Delray Beach resident, my dream was to create the kind of space I wish I had had as a kid — a safe place to go for support, to be around adult mentors and have leadership opportunities,” said Jackson.
“To be able to get our youth actively involved in leading change at a time of crisis in our community and our country lets them see that they can be messengers of hope.”
Jackson and the EJS youth have become strategic partners with Palm Health Foundation to deploy SenseMaker®, an online research tool used to track the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of citizens.
They are collecting personal stories from county residents, about how the outbreak and community interventions are affecting residents, and taking immediate action to help individuals who share a story of personal crisis.
The youth allocate money from the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Fund at Palm Health Foundation to help residents who are struggling to pay their rent, access food, receive medical treatment and other urgent needs due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We provide them with the resources they need to do the work, and then get out of the way,” said Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of Palm Health Foundation. “True change comes from inside a community—especially from our youth. We’re here to help residents leverage their own power.”
Also, as a leader in the Delray Beach community, and chair of Healthier Delray Beach’s steering committee, Jackson is working with EJS youth to capture local sentiments around racial equity.
After the murder of George Floyd, a question was added to the story collecting initiative that asks, “As a community, how can we emerge from this turmoil stronger than when we started?”
Jackson is helping to expand the reach of the effort by engaging local grassroots organizations to help circulate the survey. The work is an example of Palm Health Foundation’s equity approach that values, elevates, and supports resident leaders in their roles.
With the support of donors, Palm Health Foundation is a leading community foundation for health in the county, building community partnerships, advocating for vulnerable neighbors and inspiring innovative solutions to lead change.
The EJS Project is always looking for volunteer and donor support, and will be holding their next monthly Teen Social Night on Thursday, July 16th at 6:30 PM.