In order to cultivate growth, one must invest and dedicate their time and energy. This is true for gardening. This is true for the stock market and this is especially true for a community.
When you invest in the community, the community turns around and returns the favor. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Jubenson Henrisme.
“I came to this country in July 2011,” Jubenson said. “And the people I became friends with used to play basketball at Highland Elementary. Jose noticed us playing and he would always invite us in. Like, ‘Come and get some pizza. Come and drink some juice.’”
“I started at BRIDGES at Highland two and a half years ago,” Outreach Coordinator Jose Mendez said. “In the beginning, I had to gain Jubenson’s trust and just listen to him because he felt he was different and did not get along with a lot of his peers at Lake Worth High.”
It didn’t take long for Jubenson and Jose to develop a strong rapport and after seeing all the opportunities BRIDGES could afford someone like himself, the young man decided to become a BRIDGES member.
“I wanted to join so I could have a better future,” Jubenson said.
Born in Haiti and a fluent Creole speaker, Jubenson has been instrumental in bringing members of that community to the BRIDGES at Highland Elementary and to date, has volunteered over 500 hours with the organization.
“He is one of the most consistent volunteers I have,” Jose said. “From outreach for community events, baby showers, recruiting members, setting up for events, translating, the list goes on. Jubenson is dedicated and loves to help the community. He even stopped by today to refer a community member who is pregnant and would like assistance with resources.”
Just as Jubenson has dedicated himself to volunteering, the staff at BRIDGES has taken it upon themselves to invest in Jubenson.
When he was struggling academically and feared not being able to graduate, Jubenson found a support system at BRIDGES. Jose made sure to encourage him and assure him that he was on the right track .
“Just a few words and some small conversations,” Jose said.
When Jubenson graduated this year, BRIDGES staff got together and held a celebratory cook-out for him and Jose helped him to find a job.
“He was having a difficult time finding a job,” Jose explained. “So, we put together a resume and I helped him apply for a few jobs, giving him some pointers on interviewing and making sure you have no typos on the application.”
Less than three months after brushing up his resume, Jubenson had a full-time job and is working his way towards a brighter future. He dreams of being a filmmaker and making action classics like the ones he grew up watching.
“When I started volunteering at BRIDGES, I was like every other kid who doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up,” Jubenson said. “But now? I’m starting classes at Palm Beach State College and I’ll do two years there and then, go to Miami for film school. I love all sorts of movies but I want to make smart action movies.”
Jubenson credits BRIDGES for giving him a sense of direction and says that his decision to volunteer was inspired by the fact that he saw kids like himself there.
“We empower our community and they help us do the work. The concept may be difficult to understand for some but once you grasp the concept, you will see great shifts in the work we do,” Jose said. “I am always open for a conversation with volunteers because they give so much and many times they just want you to listen to them.”
Not only has the BRIDGES staff seen Jubenson grow emotionally and professionally, but they’ve also seen him sprout physically.
“He was shorter than me when we first met, but he’s had quite a growth spurt,” Jose said with a chuckle.