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Richard Buery:Co-Founder, President, and Executive Director of Groundwork, Brooklyn, NY


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Co-Founder, President, and Executive Director of Groundwork, Brooklyn, NY public housing projects, and more than half of the city's youth live at or below the poverty line.

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Richard Buery:Co-Founder, President, and Executive Director of Groundwork, Brooklyn, NY

  1. 1. LAWCROSSING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH LAW STAR 1. 800.973.1177 Richard Buery : Co-Founder, President, and Executive Director of Groundwork, Brooklyn, NY [By Charisse Dengler] In Brooklyn, the statistics surrounding young people are not pretty. Studies show that over 50,000 kids between the ages of 7 and 14 live in public housing projects, and more than half of the city’s youth live at or below the poverty line. However, studies also show that education programs combined with work experience can drastically increase a student’s motivation to pursue success; that’s why Richard Buery is making sure that the youth of Brooklyn get both good educational programs and plenty of opportunities.As Co-Founder, President, and Executive internships when you’re in school, to make With a full-time staff of 35 and a part-timeDirector of Groundwork, Buery is no stranger cold calls to people at organizations that you staff of 100, Groundwork serves an averageto the dismal conditions plaguing young admire,” he said. of 600 children on a regular basis andpeople in New York.He has made it his impacts many more through extra workshopsmission to support the youth of Brooklyn He also advises taking some classes in the and teacher assistance.and, more specifically, the youth of East New management field in addition to law classes.York, his home turf. East New York, one of the Buery’s inspiration for Groundwork began atroughest areas of Brooklyn, has an average “One thing I wish I’d done more of in a young age. His mother, who was a teacher,high school graduation rate of 40 percent, and law school is taking more classes in taught in an East New York school for 3071 percent of its youth are born into poverty. organizational management and financial years before she retired. So she was very management of nonprofits,” he said. “So, concerned with making sure he got a goodBuery, who graduated from Yale Law School for anybody at a law school that’s part of a education and was involved in programs thatin 1997, pursued his undergraduate degree university where you might have access to influenced him in a positive way. However,at Harvard College. While there, he co- classes in the business school or a school of it was while being a part of these programsfounded the Mission Hill Summer Program. public affairs, I really encourage you, if you and going to one of the best public high know you want to do this, to take advantage schools in the country that Buery began to“Basically we started a summer program of the opportunities and cross-enroll and experience first-hand the gap between whatwhere we worked with initially 30 and then develop as many skills as you can.” he refers to as the “haves and the have-about 60 or 70 young people who lived in the nots.”Mission Hill housing project, and we moved Buery went to law school with the knowledgeinto the housing project for the summer that he want to work in the field of social “There was a real disconnect,” he said. “Iand created an enrichment-based full-day justice. didn’t feel like I had a real group of friendssummer program that included travel, in East New York who were on the same pathreading, sports, [and] camping,” Buery “I grew up in a low income neighborhood in as I was or who were focused on the samesaid. “I started that the summer after my Brooklyn called East New York where I work things that I was beginning to focus on; and Isophomore year in college, and that program now; and growing up, I think I developed a just think that in a lot of communities, that’sis still running today.” strong sense pretty early that I wanted to one of the biggest challenges that young spend my life doing work that would improve people face. It’s not only the fact that there’sBuery credits Greg Johnson, who was the the life of people of color and particularly such a lack of resources locally—like greatExecutive Director of Harvard’s Phillips young people of color,” he said. schools and great programs for those kidsBrooks House organization during Buery’s that live in poor neighborhoods—but it’s alsoundergraduate time at Harvard, for helping In 2002, Buery and Andrea Schorr co-founded that there’s not necessarily a peer group tothe Mission Hill Summer Program get off the Groundwork, a nonprofit organization encourage you and support you as you’reground and encourages law students who are dedicated to helping “young people making what I think are good choices aboutinterested in doing nonprofit work to start living in high poverty urban communities your future.”networking early. develop their strengths, skills, talents, and competencies through effective experiential With the launch of Groundwork, Buery said“It’s true for whatever you want to do... learning and work programs.” that he hoped to create an organization thatto start networking early, to seek out would provide youth with the resources theyPAGE continued on back
  2. 2. LAWCROSSING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH LAW STAR 1. 800.973.1177need to succeed in life and the communities moments that come with seeing the students and showing off what they’ve learned andof supportive family and friends that succeed that are the most memorable. celebrating their success, and that happensare crucial to a young person’s positive in a million ways,” he said.development. Whether he’s celebrating with a student who just got accepted to an Ivy League college ON THE NET“Right now, we work primarily in and around (which happened for the first time thisthree public housing projects in East New year), watching a student-run performance GroundworkYork. In each of those communities, we try of African dance (which the students video www.groundworkinc.orgto develop a series of programs that can taped and sent to South Africa along withsupport a critical mass of children and a video essay on life in East New York), Harvard Collegefamilies in those developments so that not standing by as the students turn a parking lot can we impact those young people into a community playground (a playgrounddirectly, but hopefully, we can have an impact that they designed themselves), or awarding Yale Law Schoolon the neighborhood by helping families and a prize for the Community Service Fair (of children create a network of young which last year’s winners planted saplingspeople who provide another way, another around their school as a way of helpingexample for how you can be successful in an students who are suffering from asthma),under-resourced community,” he said. Buery said he is proud of the progress Groundwork has made in giving Brooklyn’sWhen asked what the most memorable youth a chance at success.moment of the creation and success ofGroundwork has been, Buery said that he “We have the blessing that just aboutcouldn’t pick just one, but it’s all of the little everyday we get to see children learningPAGE