“I Look at You and I See Myself”
At 23, Maurice Reid is about to graduate from New York University feeling like the sky’s the limit. But as someone who spent nearly his entire life in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, his story could have turned out much differently.
When Maurice was at CV, he was so eager to go home, he says, that they called him “the AWOL king.” But when Maurice returned to his family in Brooklyn at the age of 13, things were difficult. His mother was busy raising six other children and he felt lost. He dropped out of school, took to the streets, and eventually served two years in a juvenile detention center.
“When you come out of an institution, you can mess up again or end up on the righteous path. I decided to work toward the righteous path,” Maurice said. He reached out to CV and became part of the Work Appreciation for Youth (WAY) Program, a privately funded program that provides support to kids for up to five years.
WAY senior counselor Carl Johnson helped Maurice think through his goals and how to attain them. “Maurice was incredibly ambitious and driven, and highly focused on improving his future and his siblings’ futures,” Carl said. “He wanted to lead by example, to end his family’s cycle of poverty. He was their brother, but also acting as their father.”
Carl helped Maurice secure housing, an important first step. Maurice enrolled at Westchester Community College, where he earned top grades while working several jobs, then transferred to NYU, where he’ll soon complete his bachelors degree in international relations with a minor in business. With determination and the guidance of Carl and a handful of other dedicated CV employees – relationships that continue to this day – Maurice is now an independent young man equipped with the skills to take care of himself and leave the past behind.
Maurice was recently honored with the President’s Award at the 32nd Annual WAY Dinner. “It wasn’t an easy road. I was very hard-headed when I was young.” As he looked out at the group of WAY participants and graduates he said, “I look at you and I see myself. I’ve been there. Just focus on building relationships with people you trust, people you can actually talk to. You can go anywhere you want to go … you’ve just got to set your mind to it.”