Who we are
ENCOURAGE THE DREAM, EMPOWER THE REALITY!
The Good Life Philanthropic Youth Foundation was founded as a 501(c)(3) in August of 2012. It was founded by Hasan Stephens, Executive Director, and born out of a desire to eliminate youth violence, poverty, and incarceration by exposing youth to the power of Hip Hop Culture.
The model is based on the personal mentoring work that Hasan Stephens had done for several years since with two youths in Syracuse, NY. His personal life coaching relationship bred positive results with these young men. Based on the understanding, process, and results from the two youths about what made them successful, Hasan began developing an effective model to be scaled and replicated to affect the greater community on a larger level.
The Good Life Youth Foundation began with creating and implementing a program for youth inside the Hillbrook Detention Facility. By utilizing the arts, Hasan Stephens taught life skills, personal finance skills, and entrepreneurial skills through Hip-Hop culture. The programming consisted of Hip-Hop Financial Literacy, poetry, and a Hip-Hop life skills curriculum. Hasan also facilitated the REAL Talk program bridging the gap between the youth and the positive role models in their community, as well as the local college students. Despite the challenges and adversities these children face on a daily basis outside of the programs, they showed positive results within the programs and managed to better their lives while also improving their chances of having a successful career.
In June 2011, Hasan Stephens approached Jonathan Cerrito from Blitman & King Law about getting a 501(c)(3) status in order to get out into the community. Jonathan volunteered his services and through process, bought into the mission. He also joined the organization to help develop the model further. By June 2012, The Good Life Philanthropic Youth Foundation had become a recognized 501(c)(3). Since then, Jonathan has been instrumental as a co-founder who helped design and construct what Good Life is today.
Our Philosophies and Approach
Hip Hop Pedagogy
We believe that the level of apathy and poor performance amongst many inner city children is directly related to their common belief that being smart is “not cool”. In an effort to find themselves and establish an identity, they look for what relates to them. We utilize Hip Hop culture as the educational force (which it began as) to bridge the gap between having “swag” (terminology referring to “coolness”) and having an “education”. By building on core values, which are inherent in Hip-Hop culture, we seek to spark a newly found desire to achieve a “create something out of nothing” mentality the way Hip-Hop had once done many years ago. Our life coaches are active in encouraging educational success and staying abreast of the youth’s educational status while making sure that they receive the proper resources they need to be a success story. After all, the 5th element of Hip Hop is Knowledge.
Rooted in our culture and philosophies is the spirit of “collaboration”. Good Life works with various partners to ensure that the appropriate and necessary “wrap around” services are utilized as a support for our youth. We realize that we can’t do it alone. It truly takes a village. We work alongside other agencies in Onondaga County and surrounding areas to guarantee success in improving the quality of lives for our area’s children. We work with youth between the ages of 13-24 and offer our services to youth of various backgrounds and ethnicities.
These children can experience an array of difficulties and obstacles, including psychiatric impairments, emotional underdevelopment, and a stalled level of cultural competence. One of our goals is to help address these challenges by fostering real and genuine connections with adults in their lives who can aid in their personal development. Our organization is active in community reentry, life coaching, education, and advocacy. Our hope is that by addressing these issues, we will decrease the level of recidivism, incarceration, and violence amongst our youth.
Many of our kids experience financial hardships, driving the potential of becoming involved in certain activities to earn money in order to seek the very basic needs of life. We are determined to bring to light the challenges in making money in a non-positive way and expose the drawbacks of living a life of crime. Our goal is to teach them that they can earn money in different and more positive ways while also creating viable income opportunities via entrepreneurial partnerships, internships, and job experiences afforded through various partnering businesses and agencies, giving youth practical alternatives to crime. We believe it is imperative to also teach youth how to manage their personal finances and also understand and build assets for generational wealth by offering “Cultural Economics” workshops and trainings. Cultural economics is understanding economics in relation to your culture and how culture may shape habits, perspectives and ways they engage with money.
Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprises
The culture that the youth celebrate and learn most from (Hip-Hop) was born out of the spirit that you can “create something out of nothing”. That is the essence of entrepreneurship. We encourage youth to become business owners and to apply entrepreneurship as a means to close income and opportunity gaps. For youth that may not be interested in owning their own business, at the very least, we aim to create a workforce of youth who are job ready and are seeking higher than minimum wage jobs as well as having strong conviction for education as “intra-preneurs,” creating long term sustainability overcoming the obstacles of systemic inequality. Entrepreneurship is an element of Hip Hop culture.
A Good Life Begins With R.E.A.L. Connections
“A Good Life starts with REAL Connections!”
- Connections through Hip-Hop Culture
- Connections to youth generating REAL trust
- Connection with Investors and believers in our mission
- Connections to partners through true collaboration
- Connecting the youth to resources and knowledge
- Connections to Credible Messengers as Life Coaches to walk the journey toward success together
- Connections to their Dreams and the tools to make them a reality!
Our moral guides everything we do at Good Life. It helps us discover the youth, partners, collaborations, and investors that we work with. It helps the youth develop a deep trust in our life coaches. It helps us clearly lay out a path for success help make maps to carry out the dreams of our youth.
WHO DO WE REACH ?
The Good Life reaches “at-risk” youth between the ages of 13-24. Our youth come from all walks of life. Predominantly, we serve low-income, marginalized youth of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds. Due to Syracuse having the highest concentration of poverty amongst Black and Latino populations in the nation, we find that our youth tend to fall under those classifications.
We also serve youth in the Syracuse City School District and beyond. Our facility programming engages youth from NYC to Buffalo NY and in between. Some of our youth may be or may have been system involved. Others will not be. The beauty is that you will never be able to tell the difference because the only thing separating them is… a mistake. And we all make those.
COLLABORATION OVER COMPETITION
COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIP is at the core of the work we do in THE GOOD LIFE. By leverage the public -private partnership, we can multiply the resources and opportunities our youth are exposed to.
We also work with various community partners to ensure that the appropriate and necessary “wrap around” services are utilized as a support for our youth. We work collaboratively with our agencies in Onondaga County to ensure success in improving the quality of lives for our area’s children while simultaneously strengthening families. After all, no one agency can solve the whole problem by themselves.
“IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD”
-Nigerian Igbo proverb “Ora na azu nwa”
CONNECTING DREAMS TO REALITY: LET THE YOUTH DREAM
THE GOOD LIFE meets the youth where they at. We ENCOURAGE them to DREAM and EMPOWER them to turn their dreams into a REALITY. We do not paint their dreams for them; we only challenge them to achieve it.
If we are “telling”, we are not “listening”. Good Life Foundation is about creating connections with the youth for their success and future. We foster partnerships with youth to create a collaborative effort toward success. Success is something that is measured by the individual. If the youth are not invested in their own personal YOUTH DRIVEN plan, chances are they will end up stuck in somebody else’s plan.