How it Began: The Desire To Do More
Sterling Wilder was an auditor in Washington, D.C. who used to drive four hours to Lynchburg, Virginia every weekend to tutor children. When one of the boys he tutored ended up in jail, Sterling knew he could prevent that from happening to other children. Jubilee Family Development Center was born, Sterling says, because "I don't believe in just talking about things. I believe in doing."
The Solution: A Safe Haven For Kids
"I had a dream to build an educational and recreational center where kids in the inner-city could come," Sterling says. "There were so many negative things pulling them away, pulling them into the drugs, or pulling them to having poor grades, or pulling them to be rebellious against their parents, and I felt I needed to be a strong source, I needed to pull just as strong. One of my main goals of Jubilee is to bring kids off the street, to bring them to a safe place, a safe environment.
"So many times our children have low self-esteem. They might think, 'I can't do anything. I can't be anybody.' But once you get that talent motivated, and spark that interest in them, then they'll be focused. All the kids are special."
Jubilee Family Development Center was established to provide children and their families in Lynchburg with a structured haven away from drugs and violence. Jubilee provides youth and family-development services, including: after-school tutoring, computer training, cultural activities, mentoring, community service activities, and access to health screening.
Sterling says, "The thing about the inner-city community, very few of the children if any have computers in the home. That's why I think Jubilee is so special. It helps level out that playing field. We have the resources and technology that most families can't afford, but as a community, as a village, we've come together.
"I use the older kids, like Andre, to help mentor the younger kids. Andre's very special. He started selling drugs when he was 11 years old. It was quick, easy money that kids can make in the inner-city. And I said, 'Andre, you're going to be our youth leader,' because I could see kids attracted to him. He had never been told he could be anything like a youth leader or be anything of a leader at all."
Andre says, "Honestly, I believe I would have been dead if I hadn't met Sterling. Basically he just gave me love. That's what I needed for a long time. He's always there for me."
Real World Training
Sterling Wilder has used the Use Your Life Award to implement two important programs at Jubilee Center. Through the Internship Program, middle school and high school students gain practical job skills and experience in the workplace. The Vocational Program assists students age 16–30 years old in vocational career searches, practical on-site training and job-readiness skills. And, all Jubilee Center program participants are benefiting from a new computer lab!