Without Espoir, 55 Westbury schools students would be deprived of after-school enrichment programs.
Without Espoir, 80 Westbury families would need to go elsewhere to get their weekly food supplement.
Without Espoir’s social services department, 275 families in the Westbury area would have to stretch the thin resources of other nonprofits.
The noun is in the title—espoir, in French, means “hope.”
The organization, whose main mission is to serve Westbury’s underserved youth, was founded by Dr. Samarth Joseph in May of 2012 and occupies two floors of a building at 570 Main St. in the New Cassel section of Westbury.
It recently celebrated its seventh anniversary with a lavish awards and fundraising luncheon at the Floral Terrace in Floral Park. Politicians from Governor Andrew Cuomo to Congresswoman Kathleen Rice to state Assemblyman Charles Lavine—a friend of the organization—sent congratulatory messages.
Espoir Youth Program, Inc. board chair Dr. Clarence Wilson Jr. gave the welcoming address, noting, “We are celebrating seven years of excellence. Seven years of making our presence felt in the lives of young people. Seven years of hope realized in this Westbury New Cassel community.”
He continued, “As chair of this organization, I can truly say that it’s been seven years of blessings.”
Wilson called seven the “number of completion. Espoir has made it to seven years. That’s truly something to be proud of. But the work is not yet done. That’s why you are here. That is why we all are here. Because we care about the youth in our community.”
He concluded, “Each and every day of Espoir’s existence has provided a glimpse as to where God is taking this great organization. Thank you all for coming out to support this noble cause.”
After a musical interlude by Espoir’s “Stars Performers,” who danced to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” and a Zulu language song, Joseph also welcomed the assembled. She briefly previewed that afternoon’s honorees and gave a shout out to the other nonprofits in attendance, as well as the major sponsors, Apple Bank and Panera Bread.
Words Of Praise
Senator Anna Kaplan (D–Great Neck) was present to praise Espoir and commented, “I have to say that Westbury is a wonderful very special community. And I’m privileged to represent them in New York State. And I will continue to be that voice and advocate for all of you, but especially for our youth. The best thing we can do for [them] is to bring more funding because we understand the importance of our youth—they are our future. And the best thing we could do by them is the best guarantee for a better future.”
Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Viviana Russell (D–Westbury) recalled how Joseph “came to my office with an idea, took that dream and that vision and created Espoir for all the children of the community of Westbury and New Cassel.”
Turning to Joseph, Russell said, “Thank you for continuing to bring hope to our community.”
Russell also mentioned that Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe (D–Westbury) could not be there, but sent her congratulations to Espoir and all the honorees.
Ambassador Hugues Sanon of Haiti is a special envoy to the United Nations for the Council for Justice, Equality and Peace, as well as the international ambassador for the Foundation for a Drug Free World.
He called Joseph, a fellow Haitian, “his beloved friend,” and “a goodwill ambassador and an advocate for peace and love.”
Sanon related how when the devastating earthquake hit their island nation in January, 2010, Joseph lost 50 members of her family.
“But she did not spend all the time crying,” he continued, “but she stood up and has been [lending] a helping hand for the Haitian community and going back to Haiti to feed the hungry and to shelter the homeless. She’s a great leader and tonight I’m going to acknowledge all the leaders.”
Sanon told Joseph that any time she needed help and support, he and his organization at the United Nations would be there for her.
“I’ll be with you because you’re doing a great job,” the ambassador told Joseph, adding, “She will be working tirelessly to make sure that children in Westbury and the rest of the world have the [best possible] education.”
Sanon concluded, “Let us work together for peace. Let us work together for love. Let us work together for conciliation. Let us work together so we could have a sustainable world.”
Wilson, the board chair, introduced the next portion of the program, a tribute to the late William Pruitt. The former Westbury resident had served on the Espoir board and was the founder and executive director of McCoy Center Family and Youth Services. Some of McCoy’s functions were transferred to Espoir.
“This afternoon, we take the time to honor the memory and legacy of a man that we all knew, loved and appreciated,” Wilson said. “This man was humble and caring and his love for young people drove him to do great things for the Westbury New Cassel community. William devoted his professional life to adolescent development, family therapy and housing development for underprivileged families. He was a man who truly cared about strengthening the fabric of families and nurturing young people in order to strengthen their resolve and handle whatever circumstance they would face in life.”
Wilson added, “His legacy will not be forgotten,” and credited Pruitt with being an inspiration to Joseph.
“She has diligently taken up the task of leading Espoir in a way that he would be very proud,” Wilson observed.
Wilson said he was proud to have known Pruitt and said there was no better way to honor his memory than creating a scholarship bearing his name.
Joseph called Pruitt “a leader, a scholar a lover of children. A true human being,” and asked his widow Bertha and son Kobie to join her at the podium.
She then announced the formation of the William Pruitt scholarship, which will enable children in the Westbury area to go to college.
“We thank you, Mrs. Pruitt, thank you so much for all your husband has done,” Joseph pronounced. “We continue to run with what he has given to us, which is true love and support for the children of Westbury.”
Words of praise for Pruitt also came from Joseph Smith, founder and executive director of Long Beach Reach, Inc, another social service nonprofit.
“William Pruitt embodied the idea of a gentleman,” Smith said. “He was soft-spoken, but when he needed to, he was strong and deliberate and worked tirelessly on behalf of children.”
“There For Us”
Joseph called the contingent from Apple Bank to come forward to be honored.
“For three years, Apple Bank has been there for us, and we want to say ‘Thank you.’ Every time I call, Apple Bank says, ‘What can we do, Dr. Joseph, how can we help you?’” Joseph related. “Espoir appreciates your generosity.”
The first to be honored was Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth.
“What an inspirational day,” said Bosworth. “Thank you so much for the leadership you show the children of Westbury, not just today and not just this year, but every day and every year, along with the wonderful board and all the people that support you.”
Bosworth praised the keynote speech, given by noted civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington of Hempstead, saying that he “gave an inspirational speech in an inspirational way. And he spoke about the children being our future and our commitment to our children. And I saw that here today. I saw the ‘William Tell Overture.’ I saw a group of children accompany it and there was a young lady in a green cast on her arm. And did that stop her? (“No” came from members of the audience.) It did not stop her because she has the spirit of ‘I can do it.’ She’s getting it from her parents at home, and she’s certainly getting it from her [time] at Espoir.”
During one of her visits to Espoir, Bosworth related, she had been given a red mug with the word “Espoir” and said that she has it in front of her at every town board meeting to keep up her spirits in situations when they were down.
“I must say that this lady is relentless,” said the second honoree, Westbury School District Superintendent Eudes Budhai, pointing to Joseph.
He noted that the theme of the Westbury School District last year was “Changing the narrative through our hearts and soul.”
“Because,” he went on, “[when] we connect with people like individuals that are in the room, like Dr. Samarth Joseph, we really make changes that are going to mean lifelong changes for our children.”
Budhai, too, had been impressed by Brewington’s talk, delivered without notes, and turning to the lawyer, the superintendent said, “I’m going to reach out because it’s people like [you] who we need to put in front of our children as mentors so they could listen to powerful words, because that’s what’s going to change their minds. I know some people in this room that are on a great path because of people like us in this room. We have thousands of other children that require the same type of hope and help, and require the same type of energy.”
Budhai concluded, “On behalf of the 5,300 students that we serve in Westbury, I want to say that I am humbled by this. I’m really accepting this on behalf of our children of Westbury. I want to thank all of our elected officials and all the people that serve us on a daily basis.”
Another honoree associated with the Westbury schools was Dryden Street School Principal Gloria Dingwall.
Joseph lauded the principal for attending Espoir events and supporting the organization.
“I’m in excellent company,” Dingwall said after congratulating her fellow honorees.
The award-winning educator added, “Dr. Joseph, we’re all here to pay tribute to you, who had a great vision to develop a program that supplies opportunities for Westbury children and their families to receive rich educational and cultural and civic experiences [that] elevate children’s self-esteem and ultimately gives them confidence in their ability to be successful.”
“They are poised,” the principal said of Joseph’s charges. “It was evident today and whenever I visit the program to attend special events.”
Dingwall talked about Mary McLeod Bethune, an African American woman who established the Daytona (FL) Educational and Industrial Training School for Girls in 1904 with five students. By the time of her death in 1955, the school merged with the local Cookman Institute to become a high school, then a junior college, and then an accredited four-year college named Bethune-Cookman College. Now named Cookman University, it is the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) founded by a woman.
“So you see, Dr. Joseph, the best is yet to come,” Dingwall observed. “Today, you’re located at 570 Main St. Tomorrow, who knows? It’s in God’s hands.”
Dingwall quoted the words of Bethune, from her last will and testament:
“I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you a thirst for education. I leave you a respect for the use of power. I leave you faith. I leave you racial dignity. I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you finally, a responsibility to our young people.”
Commented Dingwall: “These [sentiments] are needed today like never before.”
She ended by acknowledging her supportive family in attendance, including two of her six grandchildren, saying that “When I look into the bright eyes of my grandchildren Amari Antonio and Xavier Mateo, I have espoir,” drawing cheers and applause.
Feed The Hungry
One honoree without affiliation to Westbury schools was Paul Pachter of Long Island Cares, dedicated to carrying out the late Harry Chapin’s mission to wipe out hunger on Long Island.
“You don’t know how many lives you’ve touched,” Joseph said to him, adding that the organization is really important to Espoir, helping to serve its students.
Pachter said that he didn’t know any nonprofit on Long Island that had such a perfect name and such a perfect mission.
“If we don’t provide hope for our children, then we have failed them,” he pointed out. “When there are 77,000 children on Long Island that, through no fault of their own, struggle to have a healthy meal put on their table, we are failing our children. If there are communities with high incidences of poverty, with people going homeless, with people being victimized and people not having the opportunity, then we’re failing our communities.”
Pachter, however, wasn’t despairing.
“We could turn it around, and the example is right here in front of us, with the work that Espoir continues to do,” he said. “I share this award with the 50 people who work at Long Island Cares. We thank you on behalf of myself, the board and staff. Our founder, the late Harry Chapin, realized more than 40 years ago that if there’s hunger in America, then that is the true shame of society.”
Representing the sponsoring bank was honoree Antonietta (Toni) Chiauzzi, branch manager of Apple Bank’s Westbury office.
“From the very first moment I met Dr. Joseph, I was impressed by her spirit, her energy and her passion for the children of the community,” Chiauzzi said. “As a mother, I personally think it is important to have the availability of a program like Espoir, that addresses the educational needs of our children. It has been an extraordinary experience to witness the level of commitment Dr. Joseph and her team has made to this community’s next generation. We’re honored and humbled to receive this recognition, and I look forward to continue my association with this elite group as they make a difference in our community.”
Westbury’s Park Avenue Elementary School teachers were honored en masse.
“We cannot say thank you enough for your continuing dedication and 70 years of service to the community,” Joseph stated.
Robert Chambers, the principal, accepted on behalf of the teachers.
“What we have done in the past couple of years is sponsored a Friday in which people paid $5 to wear jeans instead of formal attire, and we’ve donated the funds to the Espoir food pantry,” he said, going on to note that many of his students have benefited from Espoir’s programs.
“They get homework help. They experience different activities and group projects at no additional costs to the parents,” the principal pointed out. “Every time that I visit the program, it gets more structured, and it’s really a safe haven for our families and children, so thank you.”
Anita Johnson Ferguson, one of two parents honored, appreciated the nonprofit for providing a safe place for children to get the support they need when their parents have to unavoidably work late. Espoir helps with homework so the children won’t have to stay up late doing it.
Ferguson noted places where Espoir children have been, like the White House, “which is a great experience, a life-changing experience, thanks to Espoir. When you get to experience places and things that are outside your community, it expands your horizon, and I am so thankful to Espoir.”
The final honoree was parent Magdala Munce, who, according to the text of her profile, “strongly believes that there are no other programs in Nassau County that do the work that Espoir is doing in the community.” .
Joseph told Munce, “Thank you for all the support you have given us” and went on to say that the parent “always stays late to make sure everything is okay and she comes to our Parent Appreciation Day. She has inspired the entire organization.”
Odd & Ends: Don Tellock of BurgherGray LLP was emcee. The invocation was given by Dr. Dion Harrigan, while Louise B. Calixte,Esq. sang the “Star Spangled Banner.”Music was provided by deejay Dwuane Kerr and Cumbe, the Brooklyn-based Center For African and Diaspora Dance.
Espoir’s programs seek to address social issues impacting families and to prevent youth involvement in at-risk behaviors. Youth are assisted in developing the fundamentals of good character during their involvement with the agency. The agency connects families to resources in the community while providing education on navigating systems to maintain full autonomy over personal life issues involvement. These are the programs offered:
Youth and Family Counseling: Individual counseling sessions in case management/social services provided to youth ages 6 to 21 and their families, tailored to individuals needs, including anger management, abuse, relationship conflicts, mental health issues, educational advocacy, etc. Teen pregnancy prevention and parenting skills training is also provided, with an emphasis on providing awareness and education on premature sexual activity, enhancing parent/child relationships, and to respond to life issues appropriately. In addition group counseling is provided. Services are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m..
After-School Enrichment: Homework assistance is provided to elementary and middle school age children (ages 6 to 13) in the Westbury School District. The children receive tutoring in language arts, math, science, social studies and cultural arts education. Enrichment courses, such as music, art, Zumba, martial arts, Girl Scouts/Young Man in Progress, swimming, peer mediation training, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are also provided. Services are Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Food Pantry: Espoir works with Ebenezer Haitian Baptist Church, located at 859 Prospect Ave. in Westbury, to feed the less fortunate members of the society. Services are Fridays only from 10 a.m. to noon. As of Nov. 19, the food pantry has fed 39,451 people this year, and handed out nearly 1.35 million pounds of food.
—Submitted by Espoir