Screenshot: R.E.P. UNYC
Ray Smith wants to provide children of color with educational and cultural exposure opportunities beyond the classroom. That's why he founded R.E.P. U, Inc.- a New York nonprofit agency dedicated to offering free enriching activities for children ages 5-21.
"My partner and I had been talking about wanting to start a camp for kids for a while since we were both social workers in the South Bronx and worked with kids directly in the schools and in the homes," Smith told Because of Them We Can. "We saw the pitfalls they were falling into. It wasn’t until after the Ferguson riots when I actually drafted up our articles of incorporation and set our launch date for the programs."
Those programs include culinary arts, photography, self -defense training, and now a Free Aerospace Program, set to launch in Fall 2019. Through the program, Smith hopes to offer underprivileged children from the ages of 3 and 16 free discovery flights.
"R.E.P. U is currently fundraising to buy an airplane to teach children to fly aircrafts, as well as giving free discovery flights upon the purchase of the airplane," Smith explained.
But in the meantime, Smith is renting planes to expose children to the friendly skies. Here's a preview of what kids who look like Journey (the little girl featured in the video below) can expect during a discovery flight.
We asked Journey's dad, Tyrise Barker, what he wanted his daughter to learn from the experience.
"I wanted her to face her fears, which she didn't have any clearly as the video showed," said Barker. "I think I was more scared when I went up and when she went up without me, but R.E.P. U, Inc Pilot Ray was great and very trustworthy. I also wanted her to see a pilot that looks like her...This was something I've never done before, and as her father I try to give her things I've never had before, experiences included."
And that's exactly what Smith wants to give children who look like him - experiences that they've never had before as well as "first-hand experience in potential career paths and access to mentors in these fields early on."
Kudos to you Ray for your commitment to help the next generation reach new heights.