South Jamaica activist honored

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Syreeta Gates has dedicated the last four years of her life to community service in Brooklyn and Queens. Photo courtesy of LaGuardia Community College

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By Ivan Pereira
Thursday, December 16, 2010

When Syreeta Gates was 18, she made a decision that not only changed her life, but other youths’ as well.

The south Jamaica woman decided to drop out of college and focus on working with community service groups. Four years later, Gates, who currently studies at LaGuardia Community College, was honored at Glamour Magazine’s annual 20 Women Under 25 gala event at Carnegie Hall last month for work that has positively affected thousands of her peers.

“I believe that young people can and should be in the forefront of social change,” she said in a statement.

Gates was personally introduced by Chelsea Clinton during the Nov. 8 event and the former first daughter talked highly of the student’s long career.

She initially was studying at CUNY’s College of Technology in Manhattan, but after her short stint there she decided on another path: full-time community service.

“I suddenly realized that school was not for me at this time in my life,” Gates said.

She began her work with several groups, including Starting Bloc and Youth Venture, and eventually created her own group, Serve We Trust Life, with the help of $1,000 in start-up money.

Gates and her one-woman group partnered with other community service organizations on various projects.

She contributed extensively to the southeast Queens youth group Life Camp, a nonprofit created to get children off the streets and promote non-violence among the youth. Gates helped the group by arranging visits to schools, where members would give pep talks and shows to inspire children. She also helped to spread Life Camp’s influence by distributing T-shirts with the group’s logo to dozens of new members and ambassadors.

“People all over the city knew us because of those T-shirts and jackets,” she said.

She also worked with the group Safe, which promotes AIDS awareness. Her biggest project with that group was a special mural at 5th Avenue and 8th Street in Brooklyn. The piece of art was created with the help of 15 high school students and has become a popular site among pedestrians.

“The mural proved to the youngsters that they can create a project that can spark awareness among their peers,” she said.

Last year, Gates decided to return to school to complement her community service. She is currently enrolled in LaGuardia’s labor and community organization program.

“I can continue at LaGuardia, where the classes are phenomenal and the professors have helped me to expand my vision of the SWT [Service We Trust] Life, and I have a major that fits perfectly with my career goals,” she said.

Gates said she will continue to find more community service projects and urges more young men and women to dedicate some of their time to help others as well.

“I would like to make a living giving to other people,” she said.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 at 10:45 am and is filed under Feature, Print Articles, Profiles, TimesLedger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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