A work-study becomes a life’s work for two entrepreneurs

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The summer’s winding down, and while most young people are playing, these kids are working.

Their work is part of a dream that began 15 years ago when Khary Lazarre-White and childhood friend Jason Warwin, were students at Brown university. They started a work-study program helping at risk young men.

“So Jason and I started working with these young men and it was clear that they just needed a lot of support and guidance and they needed some love in their lives,” said Lazarre-White .

The two young men turned their work-study into their life’s work.

“In 1995 when we came back to New York we incorporated the organization, and then you had Jason and I, two 22 year olds, we had nowhere to go so we started in Jason’s apartment,” said Lazarre-White .

Now, they have a brownstone and the Brotherhood Sister Sol, or Bro-Sis, a program providing black and Latino young people in New York City with not just academic skills, but life skills. Here boys and girls ages six to 21 take part in international study programs, tutoring, summer camps, and college prep classes, all in a safe and nurturing environment.

“I was thankful, thankful for them just giving me an open space where I can hang out stay out of trouble meet new people,” said Rashad, a member of the program.

Its members, like Frank Lopez, take the lessons they learn here, worldwide.

“I went to South Africa with the international study program, I worked in the after-school program with the young kids,” Lopez said.

He’s also found his way to Tanzania, Ghana and Brazil – a far cry from the streets of New York, where growing up his main role model was a gang member.

“I kind of had to make a choice if that was what I wanted to follow, or if I was destined for something greater. And I chose the something greater, I chose the Bro-Sis,” said Lopez.

The choice pays off. With 95 percent of its alumni working full-time or enrolled in college, the Brotherhood Sister Sol has gained national recognition, and financial support from various foundations, the City of New York, and individual donors. But more important than finances, is the feeling of family.

“That’s just an amazing feeling to have,” said participant Marsha Jean Charles. “The feeling that you have support that isn’t familial, but is family nonetheless.”

“By family, what we mean is we’re really trying to teach them what good families teach all the time,” Lazarre-White said. “And our web of support would be so comprehensive that you won’t have to walk through this alone.”

And with a family full of brothers and sisters, many never will.