For more than two decades, our New Yorker of the Week has empowered youth living in temporary housing to be the builders of a brighter tomorrow. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
The program is called the “Builders of the New World.” The builders are children living without a home.
"I’m drawing my own wonderland of everything that I love," says participant Skylah Avila. "A big bright sun, lollipops, right angles."
Inspiring these young New Yorkers to turn their dreams into reality is Thurman Scott. He founded the non-profit Actors Theatre Workshop in Chelsea in 1990. It encourages using creativity and theater to picture a brighter future.
"They can do what they set out to do, that they can do what the mind and imagination can conceive of," Scott says. "They start to view their everyday plight as something that's a bump in the road."
By sharing a meal with mentors, they're introduced to new possbilities. By performing monologues in front of adults, they realize their voice matters.
"I used to be kind of shy to show what I want and to tell people what do I think. I’m actually not like that anymore," Avila says.
"He just pushes you to do your best. He just tells you that you can do it, and then you actually feel like you can," says participant Chelsea Mensah.
"That’s a child that has said that I’m not going to deal with the nonsense. I know what I want in life, I know where I’m going in life, and I’m going to fight to get it," Scott says.
In recent months, the nonprofit started fighting for its future. After losing a major donor, it's struggling to pay the rent on this 5,000-square-foot facility with a 60-seat theatre.
“We’ve never had a lot of money," Scott says. "We are idealists, we have commitment. We work hard night and day, because this becomes a model of what they should be in life."
The group is currently fundraising to stay in its current home to continue serving these children without homes for free.
"It needs to be around forever because children need to know that someone sees them and respects them and sees their essence," says former participant Sulma Arzu-Brown.
So, for nurturing the imagination of these young builders, Thurman Scott is our New Yorker of the Week.