Long Island City, NY—June 20, 2013—Rajib Gonzelez stood on stage with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his three young children and told the audience attending a celebration of the New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative how the CUNY Fatherhood Academy at LaGuardia Community College, a program under the initiative, impacted upon his life.
“I wouldn’t be here today at Gracie Mansion speaking about how I got my life back on track to how I became a better role model and father to my three beautiful children, Tyler, Laila and little Rajib,” he said at the June 18th event, ”if it was not for the Fatherhood Academy.”
The Fatherhood Academy got Rajib back on an educational track after his plans were derailed when he fathered the first of his three children when he was 17. He had been a Brooklyn College freshman majoring in accounting beforethe pressures of parenthood forced him to drop out.
In September of 2012 he joined the Fatherhood Academy, took college prep classes and when he graduated from the program four months later enrolled at LaGuardia as an accounting major. He is also an academy tutor, helping students prepare for their GED exam.
The CUNY Fatherhood Academy is part of New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative, a comprehensive effort to help young Black and Latino men achieve their professional, educational, parental personal goals through an array of programs and services designed to increase access to mentoring, education, employment, and various opportunities for civic and community engagement.
For Rajib and the 121 young Black and Latino fathers who have enrolled in the academy since its launching in 2012, the free 16-week program helped them prepare for the workplace and for college. Those who had to earn a GED took prep classes, while those, like Rajib, who already had a high school diploma, took classes that got them ready for college.
The program also taught the young fathers how to be positive and consistent influences in their children’s lives.“These workshops helped me learn to communicate better with my children’s mothers by teaching me to be more patient and to understand that I can’t control every situation,” said Rajib.
“We cannot overestimate the importance that fathers play in their children’s lives,” said Mayor Bloomberg at the academy’s first graduation last September. “The CUNY Fatherhood Academy is promoting the goals of the Young Men’s Initiative to strengthen family connections and educational and employment opportunities by teaching young fathers to become responsible caregivers, while helping them learn skills that will increase their employment options.”
And the program has already seen results. Of the 66 graduates, 10 have enrolled into LaGuardia as freshmen; 32 have obtained employment; and of the 37 participants who took the G.E.D. exam 20 have passed.
“LaGuardia’s Fatherhood Academy will continue to provide young fathers with an opportunity to plot a better life for themselves and their children,” said Beth Lord, the academy director.
LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.