By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Delray Beach native Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson wanted to break the cycle of being a product of his environment. And he didn’t want other local teens to fall into the same path either.
So, instead of waiting for someone else to step up to the plate to get involved, he did so himself.
He began by mentoring local students and keeping them busy through community involvement. His efforts turned into a nonprofit, the EJS Project, several years ago.
“The EJS Project is for kids who want to be part of a program that makes a difference in their community,” Jackson said. “It gave me an outlet and it’s so rewarding.”
Now, Jackson has moved his headquarters from his kitchen table to an offie on at 700 West Atlantic Ave. He was able to move into the space thanks to a reduced $1 per year lease for two years provided by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, which owns the property.
A grand opening of the space was held last month on a Friday. The family friendly event featured music and performances from local teens in a block party style community event. Tons of community leaders and residents came out to support Jackson and his project.
“I am really proud,” he said. “The EJS Project saved me. I finally have something to hang my hat on.”
The program focuses on high school students. They can stop by the office after school to get homework done, use the printer or just talk to Jackson.
“We are putting kids in a position to be better when they graduate,” he said. “We are connecting kids to opportunities they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. The program gives kids a voice and a space to be heard.”
He does that by introducing them to the community they live in through volunteer projects. The group has helped with block clean ups in The Set, planted trees with local nonprofit Community Greening and worked on fundraisers for larger quarterly projects. His teens helped set up for Savor the Avenue and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“People call on us when its time to volunteer,” he said.
Currently, he will have anywhere from 25 to 30 students who drop in after school. He has seven that are enrolled in the EJS Project cohort.
“This is just the start,” he said. “We are going to grow.”