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Back-to-school event for Liberty City youth

Black law officers, safety officials among sponsors

Malika A. Wright | 8/14/2013, 12:42 p.m.
Progressive Firefighters Association —Photo credit: Progressive Firefighters Association

One thousand book bags and other school supplies will be given to Liberty City’s youth at a back to school give away on Aug. 15 between 10a.m.-2p.m. — sponsored by The Progressive Firefighters Association Charities Inc., in conjunction with the Progressive Officer Club, Florida Coalition of Black State Troopers, Beauty School of America, 99 Jamz, Hot 105, and State Rep. Cynthia Stafford.

In addition to receiving free school supplies at the event, which will be held at the Joseph Caleb Center in room 110, the youth will also have the opportunity to meet and speak with Black law enforcement and safety officials, including fighter fighters, police officers, state troopers and State Rep. Cynthia Stafford.

Beauty School of America will provide hundreds of free hair cuts and manicures.

Although the law enforcement and safety officials are giving away book bags and school supplies, their main focus is talking to the youth about everyday life in the inner city, encouraging them to overcome their odds and showing them that they can also become a law enforcement and safety officials, if they are interested in doing so, according to Keith Bell, the president of The Progressive Firefighters Association, a predominantly Black firefighter’s union.

“We all come from the inner city one way or the other,” Bell said of union members. “We know what they’re going through. If we don’t give back to the community, then what good are we doing them as public service, who come from the very same community.”

Presently, the union are working on starting a mentorship program.

Bell said there are a lot of youth who want to become firefighters, police officers and state troopers, but aren’t informed on how to obtain those positions. He said the association wants to make sure children in the inner city have the information, in case they want to obtain those positions.

Bell overcame his odds

While growing up in Little Haiti, it wasn’t until after being expelled from public schools that Bell turned his life around. He had counselors at the alternative school he attended who helped him get into Miami Edison Senior High School, after he worked hard to redeem himself. After high school, he graduated from South Carolina State University.

Bell said the kids who live in the inner city are in “a box with negativity and that’s all they know.”

Bell didn’t let his hardships, which included not having a relationship with his father stop him. Instead he associated himself with positive people who motivated him to get excel in life. Bell remembers having a mentor from his neighborhood who exposed him to camping and fishing and encouraged him to stay out of trouble, even though that same mentor was in and out of jail. Bell also was mentored by another firefighter, when he first tried to become one. The fire fighter vowed to “walk with him every step of the way” in his process, after Bell showed that he was serious.

Bell, a passionate mentor, said he plans on telling the youth his story.

“Whatever it is you want to do, you have an opportunity . . . ,” he said. “I’m from the same place you’re from, if I can do it, you can do it.”