By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Archye Leacock, 58, lost his eyesight to glaucoma at age 14. But the Trinidad-born scholar says his mother didn’t let the disability stop him.
“Every day, I remember my mother would say, ‘You can do it, don’t let the world put you down, you can do it,'” he recalls. “To hear that voice in my head every day for weeks on end made an impact.”
While at studying at Temple University, Leacock decided to hold a class for the many young African-American children he discovered milling around campus. The first class had seven students. Within just a few months there were 200. That’s when the Institute for the Development of African-American Youth was born.
“Someone believed in me, and I think at the end of the day that’s what young people need,” says Leacock, who founded the organization 23 years ago.
Since then, Leacock has developed programs that have impacted tens of thousands of young people both in and out of the criminal justice system.
IDAAY’s initiatives focus on three areas: education and training, prevention and intervention, and parenting and family support. One of its key successes is “Don’t Fall Down in the Hood,” a court-ordered intervention program that serves adjudicated youth.
Other highlights include IDAAY’s programs on truancy intervention, fatherhood training, and alcohol and substance abuse treatments.
“My job is not only work with these young people, but to be their advocates,” says Leacock. “Their lives are complicated, they’re getting arrested, they’re going to jail, they’re living in bummy houses, the family is dysfunctional, their neighborhoods are riddled with crime. Over the years I have walked people home because they were scared — this is the level of care our young people need.”
Hear the extended interview with Archye Leacock in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 15:09)…
Even though he is extremely busy working as the executive director of IDAAY and managing a staff of more than 60 employees, Leacock remains in the trenches with the young people he serves. He gives one-on-one guidance and counseling and is unafraid to intervene in families when necessary.
“His door, ears, and heart are always open to the youth of our city,” says Tariq Sabir, who nominated Leacock as a Philadelphia Gamechanger. “I have seen youth come into his program, recommit themselves to their education, obtain employment, perform community service, and even have the opportunity to experience life outside of our city.”
“Mr. Leacock has given me the opportunity to prove myself and gain some much needed self-worth,” says Brandon Watts, who began as a youth in IDAAY’s programs but now works for the organization. “I was lacking guidance and direction — that is, until I was given an opportunity by Mr. Leacock.”
The North Philadelphia nonprofit has weathered tough times due to budget cuts, but Leacock and his staff keep pushing. They walk kids home, giving love and guidance to the many, many young people who need it.
“At the end of the day, we care about our young people,” says Leacock. “We care about their lives.”
For more on the Institute for the Development of African American Youth, go to idaay.org.
For more community affairs stories about “gamechangers” in your neighborhood, follow KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg on Twitter. You can also “like” her on Facebook.
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