# 1 Youth Motivator and Speaker,
Author and Advocate,
ABOUT EDWARD DEJESUS
As the nation’s leading workforce development expert, my aim is to create a world where no jobseeker is disconnected from opportunities for success and advancement. That’s why I’m super- passionate about training, educating and inspiring youth programs, youth service professionals and the young people they serve.
My thirty years of experience in the trenches in some of the toughest neighborhoods and policy-making environments has prepared me to help you build better future economic opportunities for marginalized youth and adults. Through research, inspirational storytelling and hands-on demonstration, I present the case that every community has the seeds to set up the structures that make a difference in their youth’s future. And, through this message, audiences learn how to make these seeds grow.
My mission is “All Youth Connected” In the U.S. today, 4.6 million youth are disconnected from work and school and millions more are struggling to hold on. I have spent decades working on policy and programmatic solutions with a wide range of workforce organizations, foundations, government entities and corporations.
I’m a W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Fellow and hold a MS in Management and Urban Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research. I’m a graduate of Rutgers University’s Center for Creative Community Leadership. I’ve been trained by the Midwest Center for Social Change, The Gallup Institute, The Center for Creative Leadership, The National Coalition Building Institute and many others. I’ve served on the board of the National Youth Employment Coalition, chaired the New York City Youth Employment Consortium and led the local NYC MADDADS (Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder).
My commitment to professional development is second to my passion for youth work. I’ve worked with more than 100,0000 youth from almost every state in the union.
I’ve author reports for the US Depart of Labor, The Annie E Casey Foundation The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Johns Hopkins University and many others. featured on NPR, in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and the Miami Herald.
My books are in use my numerous workforce development organizations today.
People often ask, “why are you so passionate about the work you do?” You see, as a twenty-year-old young father born and raised in the Bronx, NY, the path to success was confusing. I wanted to be the father that my children deserved but no one told me the truth about how to get a job. I'm not talking about any job; I'm talking about a good paying job with some real benefits.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn't trying to be a cocky 20-year-old. I deserved a good-paying job. You know what I'm talking about - those NYC good paying jobs in the hospitals, on the police force, in the fancy hotels, on Wall Street. No one who looked like me had those jobs and when I asked how to get one, I was told to have a resume, be able to answer the 21 commonly asked interview questions, dress in a suit and smile. Let's not forget the handshake.
I wish someone would have told me that 80% of jobs are never advertised and that the greatest chance of me getting a job was not based on what I knew or who I knew - it was based on who knew me and liked me. The more affluent kids who were getting these good jobs didn't have a resume, they had a connection.
Listen, all this talk that young people not trying to be responsible was untrue then, and it's untrue now. Young people want good jobs, but no one is being honest on how to get them. They want to be shown the way but too many people are not opening doors to opportunity.
Young people want advance education and training but it's hard to motivate themselves to invest in school or certification programs when they don't know someone on the other side of the labor market who is willing to help them put their hard earned achievement to work.
I was told to pour through classified ads and button up for more interviews than I can count. And although I often got the offer, they were for jobs that were trying to drag me out of school towards those $3.35 an hour, no benefits types of jobs that seemed to be reserved for young men and women of color just like me. It was a STUCK UP! I was being stuck in punch-clock promise land.
There were alternatives... but my brother made that mistake, and he made me promise that I wouldn't make the same.
I kept pushing, interview after interview, the love for my two baby girls kept me reaching beyond, toward what I knew I was capable of but the weight of bills and the need for an apartment hit me hard...so one day I just decided to drop out of school and take on a full-time assistant manager position at a local fast food joint.
There was one catch... The manager informed me that I would have to work rotating shifts, school would no longer be an option.
So many young men want to do the right thing but can’t survive on $3.35 (now you can't survive on even $15.35). Sometimes you just got to do what you think you need to do.
The day I decided to leave school, I ran into my best friend and boxing partner- Brian.
Brian was doing his road work and I was looking for work. I told him I decided to take the fast food job and leave school, but Brian had something else in mind. He said, “Don’t do it. I know someone who can help. You have another move.” The next day, Brian’s father, Mr. Ed Dowd, called me. He had a connection at the NYC Human Resources Administration - a woman named Shirley Gray, who was offering me a full-time job as an Institutional Aid with the NYC homeless shelter system. Starting pay? $17,000 and mad benefits. No resume, no 21 questions, no suit, just a lot of compassion for a young man trying to do the right thing.
From there, my human service career took sail. And 35 years later, here I am, still at it, encouraging millions of young people with Brian’s same words: “Don’t do it. I know someone who can help. You got another move. This story inspired the creation of what now is my famous “Checkmate” story and painting. I’ve been telling this story for more than 30 years to help young people see that they have options beyond the streets. And given the plight of so many young adults, I will tell this story for 30 years more. I just hope that I will get to share this story with you and the young people you serve.
I did it. Now I have six children. My baby girls are all grown, and I fight every day to help create a world for my children and the ones I serve, better than the one to which they were born. We all have work to do and I am here to help you do it.