One dedicated community member is making it his life’s mission to be a positive difference for Delray Beach’s youth, and with the help of the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), he is achieving his goal.
“I founded the EJS Project back in 2014 when I looked around at certain conditions in my community and began to feel doubtful about our communities future. I felt our youth lacked the guidance, support and access to opportunities needed in order to have a desire to do better,” said Emanuel “Dupree” Jackson, Jr., founder of the Emanuel Jackson Sr. Project (EJS Project). “After going through some life changing experiences myself, I decided that I would dedicate all of my time and energy to being a positive influence in our community and for our youth. The EJS Project was initially formed to keep our youth engaged in positive out of school activities.”
According to Dupree, the EJS Project is a grassroots, non-profit organization that supports families by providing a safe place with enriching activities for teenagers; provides free meals and food support; offers virtual programming to keep youth active, engaged, and learning; and finds new ways for the youth to stay connected by doing community service, paid internships, tutoring, and community conversation.The EJS project challenges perceptions of the community and its youth by supporting teens in cultivating their talent and finding their future. By inspiring leadership, equity of opportunity, and stewardship, EJS builds and empowers tomorrow’s leaders.
The CRA stepped in to help in September of 2017 when the Board voted in EJS’s favor to provide the group with a suite in the 700 block building on Atlantic Avenue. They entered into an agreement for a two year lease at $1 per year. Since then, their relationship with the CRA has continued to grow and they collaborate with CRA staff often on events that are beneficial to our community.
“EJS has grown significantly in all aspects. At the time we first submitted our proposal to the CRA for office space in 2017, EJS was just a home-based non-profit that utilized available community space to hold meetings and gather youth. We only had seven youth participating in regularly scheduled programs. Also at the time we had not received any grants and had less than $500 in our business bank account,” Dupree said. “Today we are one employee away from being fully staffed and serving more than 250 teens annually with an average enrollment of 45 teens. We have built great relationships with funders, donors and foundations such as Palm Health Foundation, Children Services Council, Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Pulte Family Charitable Foundation, Delray Beach Police Department, and more. This support has allowed us to extend our outreach and improve the quality of programs we provide for our youth and their families.”
He states that the EJS Project is like an extended family to all of their teens. They are intentional about working to prepare their students for adulthood and life post high school, and help to not only closely monitor their youth’s academic progress and attendance in school, but also to help secure unique work experiences and exposure to different career paths through their Purpose Pays Program, where they have been able to provide nearly 40 teens with their first work experience. For them, it’s a simple formula. The more time their youth spend engaging in their programs, the less likely they are to be subject to trouble or distractions during their idle time.
Dupree and his team know they are making a difference because the feedback from the youth and parents has been positive and inspiring, and that these families are truly grateful for the EJS Project being able to provide support and opportunities.
Below are some quotes from Linora Clay and her son, Jermane Taylor:
Linora: “As a single mother, I didn’t know what to do to help Jermane get on the right path. Dupree said the EJS Project could help, but my son didn’t want to go. I convinced him to give it a try for just one month. That was three years ago. Jermane is now 15 and it has been a complete 180. His grades improved, he doesn’t get into any more fights. EJS didn’t make a difference just in his life, it made a big difference in my life. I could always call on Dupree or Mr. Marcus to help me communicate with my son. How to talk to him when he is angry. They are role models for Jermane and do everything to help him and me—even attending school conferences and driving him home to West Palm Beach from Delray Beach if I can’t. They have even helped me with gas money to get him there on my own. I will find a way to get my son to that program—that’s how much the EJS Project means to us. I truly thank God for EJS.”
Jermane: “I was fighting a lot. I used to get straight Fs. Since I joined the EJS project, I’m now close to making the honor roll and I joined the ROTC program. I feel like I can trust Dupree and Mr. Marcus with my problems. It makes me feel good that I have someone I can run to and trust. And when they say something, they mean it. They told me they would help me with my schoolwork and they will stay with me until my work is completed, even if it’s 8:00 p.m.”
The EJS Project works to acknowledge racial discrimination and the barriers it has created in communities of color, and is dedicated to teaching truth, challenging systems, and fighting for its youth’s access to opportunity. The team’s vision is for EJS to expand and deepen their impact on youth and families. They aim to achieve this by securing a permanent home in the Delray Beach community and strengthening program innovation and outreach. It is their goal to serve this community for generations to come.
“The EJS project is my Life. It was named after my late father Emanuel Jackson Sr. and I wake up every morning trying to be as much of an influence on the children I serve as he was to me. Also when I started the EJS Project I was hoping that it would be a solution to some of the many problems our community faced, more specifically our youth. Even with all its challenges I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else other than the work we are striving to do through EJS Project,” Dupree said. “The work and efforts we put in today are going to help shape the future. Being a beacon in this community and a place where residents can look to for support, inspiration and guidance is an integral piece to any high functioning community. We take pride in working to serve our community and want to be here for a long time. I was born and raised in this community and truly feel it’s each of our responsibility to preserve its history while positively shaping its future. Real change happens when those who need it lead it.”
To learn more, visit www.ejsproject.org