Hero’s name: Xavier Jennings
Home city: Denver
Organization affiliation: YouthBuild
How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?
“Xavier Jennings grew up in inner city Denver. He was surrounded by gang activity and negative influences, jumping from high school to high school.
He faced legal charges, the pull of the streets and the repercussions of his actions. At age 16, Xavier dropped out of school.
He tried to return to school, unsuccessfully, before finding the YouthBuild program when he was 18 years old. He was looking for a job to support himself.
Within the YouthBuild program, Xavier soon found skills in construction training, classroom work which helped him toward his GED and leadership opportunities.
He also found the chance to get involved in his community which he found very exciting.
He graduated YouthBuild in December 2008, graduating with honors for strong performance and attendance while earning his GED. He was immediately hired as the Alumni Mentor for the YouthBuild Program.
He has served as a youth leader at Mile High Youth Corps, where he was able to continue working toward helping his community.
At the same time, Xavier enrolled in classes at Community College of Denver. By early 2009, Xavier was awarded the Denver Metro Mayors and Commissioner Youth Award.
Today, Xavier continues to be a youth leader. As part of his leadership, he teaches a class, entitled ‘Rise Up,’ which he helped design. It explores the issues facing youth in our society today.
He also led a mentoring program for seven years in which YouthBuild students worked with local middle school students who have been placed in a pull-out program because of their academic and behavioral problems at school.
He helps organize projects with other community organizations, such as Volunteers of America for YouthBuild students, and leads the (Youth) Leadership Council at Mile High Youth Corps.
Xavier graduated from Community College of Denver, in spring 2015 with a General Studies degree. He volunteers as a coach for youth sports in the local basketball and football league, while serving on the board of directors for a youth organization called Aurora Shamrocks.
He is a proud father of two kids and is dedicated to being the engaged and positive father that he lacked in life.
Despite the challenges Xavier faced, he continues to be dedicated to his community, hoping to make positive change to overcome barriers young people face.
In the future, he hopes to start a nonprofit organization for youth.”
Honored by: Alicia McKinney of YouthBuild
Note: This profile is part of Equal Voice News’ special Cesar Chavez Day Community Heroes edition. These submissions were edited for clarity.