I came to CV with some of my own knowledge, but I have been given great opportunities to learn so much more.

My name is Lu’Keus J. Isler. I am a performing artist, community activist, and a member of the Transformative Mentoring team at The Children’s Village (CV) for just over a year. I’ve been involved in doing this kind of work since I was a teenager. Growing up in Harlem, I was privileged enough to be a part of several rites of passage programs including Impact Repertory Theatre and The Order of The Feather Fraternity. These programs focused on concepts such as performing arts, leadership, and activist training. Being a part of these experiences at a younger age while also navigating through my own knuckleheaded growing pains gives me a nuanced perspective on carrying out the work with our young people today. I have a deep understanding of the feelings of entrapment and longing for freedom that our young people feel. We’re able to have those special moments and connect through our shared lived experience. And for me, the best part of mentoring is how my mentees help me understand some of the circumstances and pressures that are weighing on the future of our community.

I came to CV with some of my own knowledge, but I have been given great opportunities to learn so much more. With CV’s support I graduated from The New School’s Institute of Transformative Mentoring last year, and have taken several trainings with the Credible Messenger Justice Center. I’m now enrolled in the Community Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. My main goal in this work is not to “change” young people, but to change the environment in which we raise them. If the children are the future and it takes a village to raise a child, then the state of our village will be the state of our future. Asé*.

*Asé, originally from the Yoruba of Nigeria, can be translated as “power, authority, command.” A person who, through training, experience, and initiation, learns how to use the essential life force of things to willfully effect change is called an alaase.

Lu’Keus Isler is team leader of the ECHOES Be Ready program, which focuses on mentoring court involved youth through individual and group sessions about restorative justice. The program uses lived experience and credible messengers to reduce recidivism and help young people with education, employment, and relationship building.

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