Christopher has a passion for helping people. He has organized toy drives and neighborhood cookouts complete with inflatable bounce houses and snow cone machines, bringing together people of all ages.
“I’m giving back to my community,” says Christopher, who funds the events out of his own pocket, “because they’re losing hope and motivation. When the kids see somebody like me who’s had the same struggles as them, and is actually making it and giving back, it uplifts them.”
Now 27, Christopher began participating in Beyond Emancipation (B:E) when he was 17, and says, “B:E can guide you if you’re feeling lost.” For Christopher, that was especially true last year when his best friend was shot and killed in front of him on Halloween. As he grieved for his friend over the following months, he was unable to focus in school.
“The only thing I could think about in class was the danger and the war going on in my neighborhood,” he says. B:E’s B2B program provided the understanding and support he needed during that difficult time. “The thing I loved is they were able to just listen and understand. They checked on me and kept me motivated and said: ‘You can do it.’”
With B:E’s support, Christopher earned a 3.50 GPA that difficult semester, and says, “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Christopher looks at everyone at B:E as part of his family. “B:E is a safe haven where you can feel protected, where you can talk to somebody about anything.”
While completing his AA in Administration of Justice at Merritt College, he works as a legal assistant in the inspector’s division of the Alameda County District Attorney’s office and has another job working overnight shifts as a security guard.
Despite his hectic schedule, Christopher plans to continue organizing community events that bring first responders into his neighborhood “to improve the dialogue between them and the community, and also to engage the kids so they can be thinking about career and college.”
“One of the things I’m really proud of with the cookouts,” Christopher says, “is that there are older people in my neighborhood who’ve had confrontations, who used to have wars back in the day, and to see them all come together and laugh and put their differences to the side for the kids, that’s a really good thing. That really made me proud.”
After graduating from Merritt College, Christopher plans to get his BA in sociology and then a master’s in social work so he can continue giving back to his community.
And while he builds his career, he also intends to expand the neighborhood cookouts and toy drives. “When I really step deep into my career and start making the money I want to make and continue rubbing elbows with the right people,” he says, “the events are only going to get better.”