Jadet Charriez said he came from a place of drugs and violence.
As a child, many of his basic needs, like clothes, food and water, were not met. He remembered getting bags of food for the weekend in elementary and middle school from the group Blessings in Backpack, so he would have something to eat.
As he got older, he said, he started selling drugs to financially support his family, even though it was the last thing he wanted to do.
Then, in 2016, he joined the groups I Believe in Me (IBM) and City Youth Matrix (CYM), two organizations that focus on enriching the lives of youths and giving them a better future.
IBM provides mentors to youths to build relationships with individuals and the community. CYM offers children financial support, education and more.
“It was tough growing up," Charriez, 20, said. "But I had Aje Hill in my corner, I had Brandon McAllister in my corner, and with both of those guys teaching me how to be a young leader and somebody that I can look up to, it meant a lot to me because it helped me get through those dark paths.”
Now, Charriez is a plumber at Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing in Frederick. He’s helping support his family, saving for retirement, and aiming to buy a house by age 25. He wouldn’t be in that position without IBM and CYM, he said.
But Charriez wasn’t always like that, said Aje Hill, the founder and executive director of IBM.
Hill said the first time they met, Charriez was "raw," "timid" and "depressed." Charriez didn’t trust people at IBM to show up for him.
“As a kid, sometimes we see things happening, and we wish that we could do something about it. But at the current time, when I met Jadet, some of the things that were going on were beyond his control,” Hill said.
But through the programs, Hill said, Charriez flourished. The natural leader in him came out and he grew into a man.
A big part of that growth was basketball, the only thing keeping him off the streets, Charriez said.
He dreamed of being a point guard for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA. But he quickly realized that he needed a plan B.
“No [5-foot-5-inch] guy goes to an NBA league,” he said.
To play basketball at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, Charriez had to work on his grades to be eligible.
Charriez said he had a 1.9 GPA, then the organizations provided him tutors. Before he graduated, his GPA was 3.9, he said.
But his grades didn’t fix his financial challenges.
Charriez remembered in middle school when a coach called the names of children who didn't pay basketball fees.
You don’t pay, you don’t play, the coach told the players. Charriez braced himself, waiting for his name to be called, since neither he nor his parents had paid the fees.
But it never came. CYM covered his costs then and throughout high school, he said.
“Then I was like,'Oh, wow, somebody really out there cares,' and it really shows that I could be something in life and I can really be successful,” he said.
To show appreciation for people who helped him, he offers his time and money to CYM and IBM.
He mentors children at IBM just as he was mentored with the program. He said he wants to help others avoid the "dark paths" he went through, like Hill did for him.
Hill sees this giving back as appreciation, and that what the organization does makes a difference.
“It shows me that while we were meeting Jadet where he was, he understood. It held value to him and that value, that consistency that we provided into his life, pays off today by him instilling that same trust and value in another student's life,” he said.
When Charriez goes to see his mentees to make sure they are doing well, few things come close to that feeling, he said.
“It feels great, too, to be able to come back and see those kids smile and know that 'Oh, that's Jadet, Jadet's back.' It just means a lot that ... [somebody] wants me to be there.”
Follow Clara Niel on Twitter: @clarasniel
Proud of you Janet! Love - Mrs. DiBella
These are valuable interventions that enrich the mentors too. So inspiring.
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