(NEW YORK) —RiseBoro Community Partnership, a housing and social service organization marks 50 years of service to Bushwick residents.
Wesley Vasquez, advocacy and organizing manager for RiseBoro Community Partnership, sits down with The Click to reflect on his path to advocacy work, most recently preventing the termination of the Next STEPS program for at-risk youth. From once living in public housing to working for one of the largest, non-profit affordable housing developers in the city, Vasquez encourages New York City youth to go out and find hope in action.
The Click: What do you do as an advocacy and organizing manager at Riseboro?
Vasquez: Riseboro is very extensive. We serve across multiple layers of social services. So there are a lot of different agendas and initiatives that each department wants to pursue, especially when it comes to areas like legislation and advocating for bills or just overall advocacy actions like social media, rallies, and phone and text campaigns. I try to oversee and consolidate all that work throughout Riseboro’s five divisions.
But my role is actually pretty new. I originally started out as a community organizer and essentially at one point I went to my bosses and was like, ‘I could be doing a lot more.’
What propelled you into a career in the non-profit sector?
I’m a first-generation Dominican-American and more specifically, I spent 17 years in New York City public housing. I come from a very low-income background… like I’m talking about at one point there were six of us living in a one-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights. I know what it means to receive social services. So when it comes to giving back in my professional work, originally in my younger career I worked around NYCHA, public housing, and housing advocacy.
What advocacy project have you been working on recently?
The [New York] Department of Probation and the Department of Correction terminated Next STEPS… a program that 16 other service providers are involved in, including Riseboro. It’s a program for at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 who need mentorship in the form of education, workforce placement, or work training. It’s very extensive work, but there are not that many participants because it’s not that heavily funded. For the last, month or so, we’ve been working with these other service providers and establishing what is called the Next Steps Coalition. We’ve hosted two rallies at City Hall and we just had over 20 people testify at the City Council hearing this morning [Sept. 29].
RiseBoro recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Could you share some insights into the significance of this milestone and how it reflects the organization’s impact on the community?
Not many nonprofits in the city can say that they’ve made it to 50 years. From a senior citizens council that grew to be one of the largest, non-profit affordable housing developers in the city… it is a testament to the work that the whole organization put into it. It’s a testament to the trust that the organization has developed with the community [Brooklyn], with folks in the government space, and other non-profit partners as well.
What advice do you have for those within our generation who have a sense of hopelessness?
You need to be proactive about going out and actually seeing hope in action. Go outside, go to a community garden, go to a soup kitchen, go to a community board meeting, and do something. There are so many different ways to get involved in your community that don’t have to be politically related… that will give you a sense of hope
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the advocacy and organizing manager for RiseBoro Community Partnership. He is Wesley Vasquez, not Wesley Vasques.