This is a question that we have all had asked of us as a young child.
An astronaut, a police officer, a star athlete, or a doctor are typical answers. These are the careers that quickly shoot out of the mouths of young, impressionable children, who believe that they can be anything they want to be with no reservation.
Sadly, many young people encounter obstacles in life that cause them to have their dreams squashed and deter them from their goals. In the African-American community this tends to be a common occurrence and, an unfortunate reality.
Dimitri Ferrier, Jr. is one of those young people who refused to succumb to the odds in order to make a difference in his life and in the life of others.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL TEENAGER
While most 19-year old teenagers are transitioning from high school to their next phase of life, struggling to figure out what they really want to be when they grow up, Dimitri Ferrier, Jr. is entering his second year of college and, recently launched a new non-profit business venture. Those are major undertakings for a 19-year old young Black man in today’s world.
Ferrier figured out at an early age exactly what he wanted to do, having dealt with challenges that most Black males use as an excuse to embrace failure, settle for mediocrity and resort to a life of crime.
At the age of 9, Ferrier’s father walked out on him and his 5 siblings, leaving his mother to raise them as a single parent. Ferrier says that having his dad walk out on the family forced him to accept more responsibility and deal with the situation like a man.
“Many people told me that I wasn’t gonna make it and that I wasn’t smart enough,” said Ferrier. “They said that because I grew up in a single parent household that I would most likely be in jail or probably drop out of school. But, even though I heard all of that stuff, I refused to become a statistic and allow those things to stop me from reaching my goals.”
DEALING WITH ADVERSITY
Growing up in Missouri City, Ferrier learned responsibility at an early age.
Ferrier began working at the age of 12 in order to help his mother take care of household bills and care for his siblings. He did everything from mowing lawns to delivering newspapers to pay the bills.
“My mother was a full-time student and a full-time worker, so she had no break time,” said Ferrier. “I knew if I and my siblings were going to eat, get haircuts and have clothes on our backs, I had to step up.”
Ferrier said that although he and his dad don’t have a great relationship, he was able to forgive him and move forward with his life. He used the disappointment and the situation as an opportunity to succeed.
“I used all the negativity in my life as a stepping stone to go to the next level,” said Ferrier. “I had to be successful and being a quitter was never going to be something people would say about me. That mindset helped me to finish number two and as the Salutatorian of my high school class.”
Ferrier has used his overall experiences to do more than talk about the plight of the African-American community.
He started doing outreach to the African-American community in 2009, calling them the ManUp Empowerment Forum for Teen Males. The mission of this outreach was to empower economically disadvantaged Black males between the ages of 13 to 19, through an open dialogue and discussion which addressed the definition of what a Man is; Self-Esteem & Self Love; Relationships; Money Management; Health; and Education.
Ferrier had a focus to empower men and the whole village through well developed programs and community services, seeking to put community pride back in place and piece the puzzle of our culture and community. He feels that without community, there is no emancipation.
Ferrier wanted to do much more and did not have all of the tools and resources that he felt could help him take his ideas of community development to the next level. It was when Ferrier heard about the Youth Entrepreneurship Academy program offered by the Texas Business Alliance; an organization that he wanted to join. He applied, was accepted and recently completed the intense six-month development program. After graduation, he hit the ground running by launching a new venture: The Ferrier Youth & Family Center.
THE FERRIER YOUTH & FAMILY CENTER
The Ferrier Youth & Family Center was founded on six pillars: Cultural Awareness, Character, Caring, Courage, Community, and Creativity. The Ferrier Center was created after seeing a tremendous increase in youth violence, an increased in juvenile incarceration rates, record dropouts and, a lack of community pride.
Ferrier wants to encourage and uplift underprivileged families and communities of African and Caribbean decent through empowerment programs that center around: Academic Enhancements and College Readiness; Career Developments; Athletics and Fitness; Social Recreations; Cultural-Fine Arts; and Character Developments. He hopes to build and reinforce family unity while promoting community involvement, with the primary goals of; increasing community involvement; promoting education; giving families and members of the community a safe place to learn and grow; and by embracing our history.
“My passion for education, family development and community pride is the reason why The Ferrier Youth & Family Center exists,” said Ferrier. “I’m one who believes that anybody can start a company or an organization and state that they are doing it for the community. But, it takes a special person to actually be passionate about the community no matter how much money they make or don’t make. I founded The Ferrier Youth & Family Center so that it can become a safe haven for community youth so that they can have a place to be when their parents are at work or, just to keep them from making wrong decisions on the streets.”
HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING
Ferrier wasted no time after graduation with moving his vision forward. Currently, The Ferrier Youth & Family Center is providing money management and character developments courses in various schools.
Ferrier has brought on 6 volunteers and has secured another job as a security guard in order to pay for his two staff persons. Talk about driven.
Next year, they plan to open The Ferrier Youth & Family Center’s Hiram Clarke Afterschool Academic & Enrichments program at various school campuses and churches in the Hiram Clarke Community and surrounding areas. The program would consist of academic enhancements, S.T.E.M Enrichments, African & Caribbean Dance Enrichment, Arts & Crafts Enrichments, Martial Arts Enrichments and character development. Ferrier also has plans to open a free-standing facility in the Hiram Clarke Community to better serve the whole family unit in the near future.
POWER TO INFLUENCE
Ferrier counts his mother, DeWanda Robertson-Ferrier; TSU Professor Ifueko Omorogbe; and Brother Deloyd T. Parker Jr., Co-Founder/Executive Director of S.H.A.P.E Community Center, as his mentors.
“Brother Deloyd is the reason that I was able to graduate from the Texas Business Alliance’s Youth Entrepreneurship Academy,” said Ferrier. “Ever since I told him my goals he has paired me with several people in the organization to learn about the functions of a non-profit organization.”
When asked what he wants he has to say to other people his age, Ferrier believes that success can’t be measured in wealth, fame or power, but by whether you’ve made a positive difference for others.
“Find something that you love and passionate about that you would do if you didn’t make a dime,” says Ferrier. “I am passionate about mentoring youth, helping families, and promoting the importance of education and community involvement these are some of The Ferrier Youth & Family Center key components. I don’t want to be famous nor do I want to be rich. I just want the satisfaction of knowing that I saw a rising problem, found a solution and stepped out on faith to fix the problem. What more could I ask for?”