When Kyle Harmon speaks about the life-changing potential of afterschool education, there’s good reason to listen. Five years ago, Kyle was a member of the CRIPS gang. He was frequently truant from school and in serious danger of not graduating. One day, he cut school to attend a leadership conference offered by Council for Unity, in the hopes of meeting girls. Instead, he found his calling.
Within a year of his first encounter with Council for Unity, Kyle quit the CRIPS, dedicated himself to school and started work as a program coordinator in CFU’s violence intervention and prevention program, empowering teens in the Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn to solve their problems without violence. Kyle’s voice is as powerful as his story, but it is his ability to listen that is most often cited as his greatest strength in working with youth. Young people who work with Kyle know that they are heard, that their lives and voices are valued just as they are.
That ability to listen and truly hear translates into programs that address the real issues in young people’s lives. Kyle started a discussion group in the Bronx where young people share life experiences and support one another in developing non-violent ways of dealing with their challenges. He conducts an annual ceremony to recognize important achievements that do not appear on report cards, providing youth with a sense of pride and accomplishment that many have never known. Kyle tracks grades, monitors school attendance, and encourages young people to keep journals as an outlet for self awareness and reflection. The Leadership and Alumni program that Kyle initiated has grown from 12 to 90 active members.
The youth of New York City who call Kyle Harmon a role model learn to walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk, of non-violent existence, of healthy self-esteem, and of choosing productive paths for your life. His integrity and drive have effected real change in hundreds of youth in four short years; the future is limitless for them, and for Kyle.