COPPIN STATE UNIVERSITY'S RISK
Coppin State University in Baltimore, took a chance on Gregory Collins. Named in honor of the outstanding African-American woman Fanny Jackson Coppin who was a pioneer in teacher education, this HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) University provided funding and a nurturing environment for Gregory’s biracial background and skill set. Gregory didn’t disappoint: his first semester in college he achieved a 4.0 GPA.
SEIZING A POSITVE OPTION, Gregory became connected with Urban Promise, an organization that provided a summer camp and a creative place for local youth to escape dangerous city streets. Gregory’s connection with Urban Promise was life altering. Relying upon its resources to learn life skills, this young man availed himself of the organization’s many offerings including after school programs, summer camps, college tours and financial assistance. At age 13, Gregory began work as a counselor for Urban Promise. In addition to helping pay his living expenses, counseling helped him develop leadership skills. Gregory likes to see people happy, so in his youth he became the “go to guy.” People liked to talk to him because he would listen, giving them his undivided attention. At home he tried to help smooth out some of the tensions and build stronger bonds among his family members. Astutely, Gregory observed that by doing good, good things came into his life.
THE IMPACT OF URBAN PROMISE
Journey to a WiseMan
is a people person. He discovered that when he was about 10 years old growing up in Camden, New Jersey as class mates would come to him for advice on how best to impress their friends. Always among the top contenders for “most dangerous city,” Camden offered its youth, including Gregory, many opportunities. Unfortunately, many of those opportunities created a path Gregory did not want to take. He did not want to go to jail. He knew there were other ways to be successful.
NAVIGATING HIGH SCHOOL
When he was a high school senior, Gregory decided he wanted to attend college. None of his other four siblings had gone to college but he saw education as the door to a promising future. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the money or the grades to be an attractive candidate. But, as he sat in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) workshop designed primarily for parents, he decided to shoulder the responsibility for his own future. If given the chance to attend college, he would prove that he could make a positive path for his life. So he set about obtaining the necessary paperwork, completing the forms, making the deadlines and writing the essays necessary to apply to college.
AS SOPHMORE YEAR LOOMED LARGE,
once again Urban Promise provided Greg the support
he needed at a critical time. Helping him obtain
student loans, Greg would attend Eastern University,
a Christian school near Philadelphia that offered an
opportunity to continue his education.
TRANSITION TO EASTERN UNIVERSITY
A NEW BEGINNING AZUSA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY
Another scramble for funds to complete his education was rewarded by Urban Promise with a three year scholarship package to a school near Los Angeles. Crossing the continental U.S. to one of the top Christian colleges in the U.S., Azusa Pacific University was where Gregory obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies and first experienced California.
FROM TEACHER TO FILM STUDENT TO OPERATION HOPE
Although his eyes had been opened to possibilities outside of Camden, he launched his career by teaching third grade in New Jersey for Urban Promise’s, Camden Forward School. While he loved the kids, his position and ever increasing responsibility, he wanted to do more. He wanted to be a program manager and attend film school, which is precisely what he did thanks to the networking efforts of a boyhood friend now living in Oakland. Once again blessed with a scholarship, he attended the Berkeley Digital Film Institute. Offering an increasingly robust skill set, Gregory was appointed the Regional Youth Director for Operation HOPE in Oakland, which eventually led to his current position as Executive Director of San Francisco Achievers (SFA).
In his current position, Gregory is a leader in an organization that provides young African-American men the opportunity to attend college and launch a positive path for their lives. As someone whose life has been shaped by such an organization, he is well equipped to lead one. His passion to help students reach their potential is contagious. Whether he is leading a luncheon learning session or connecting alumni of SFA with their next opportunity, the Achievers know he is there for them. As someone who has walked in their shoes he can encourage the young men in ways other cannot. As someone who has directly benefitted from a strong community organization he is simultaneously helping strengthen San Francisco’s community to support its youth.While Gregory’s story leads people to try to label him a “success,” Gregory doesn’t see it that way. From his perspective, he has worked hard for this opportunity to help others launch into adulthood. He will take pride in their successes.