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Pinkard Youth Institute Presents “A Heart for Youth”

From left to right: Dr. Iva Jeffreys, William N. Bradley, II, Shé Onakomaiya, Dr. Irene Pinkard, Andre Richards, Tylecia Gatlin and Geneva Renée

It was almost 25 years ago that Dr. Irene and Bedford Pinkard of Pinkard Youth Institute decided to invite Oxnard students to Prairie View A&M University to watch a cousin graduate from the animal husbandry program. The trip was the inspiration for the Black College Tours, which turns 25 years old this year.

“After the first trip, the students were so excited,” said Dr. Pinkard. “We knew we held a project that had to be expanded and continued. The program, which began with a visit to one college over a weekend, now includes visits to three or more colleges and universities and has now developed into a unique educational program.” The group, including one parent, six students and the Pinkards, flew to Houston, Texas. When the group returned, they explained how the experience had changed the way they viewed college and their educational options.

The six students who attended the first tour were a part of the “A Heart for Youth” event sponsored by Pinkard Youth Institute. It was held to raise funds to partially fund the college tours, as well as a leadership academy at a local four-year institution, and an internship program offering mentors and employment experience to students.

The public was invited to attend the special event, emceed by Steve Buenger, on Sunday, February 16, 2014, at the Residence Inn by Marriott located at 2101 Vineyard Avenue. Buenger is owner/operator of Marine Emporium Landing and Buenger Commercial Real Estate in Oxnard. Dinner was served and entertainment was provided by one of the past tour participants, Cheryl Gilbreath, whose professional name is Geneva Renée. Gilbreath is a pharmacist and Howard University graduate. She is also a professional singer and received honorable mention for her new CD, Beautiful Wonder, from the Grammys.

Throughout the event, past participants stood at the podium and shared their experiences about attending the tour. A common theme participants mentioned was being appreciative for having the opportunity to experience the different culture and history that HBCUs provided and visiting so many.

The first annual event was so well attended that three extra tables had to be set up. “I want to thank you all for your love and support. The community came out in force and it let me know that we are all about our kids,” said Dr. Irene Pinkard. Looking out into the crowd she continued, “Every one of you showed us that you trust us. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts that you would put that much trust in us and be here for our inaugural event.”

Bedford Pinkard stressed the opportunity that Pinkard Youth Institute provides to local youth. “We’ve had youngsters go with us that have never been away from home on the weekend or never spent a night away from home, but we had them for a whole week. I say thank you to the parents and all of the support here this evening.”

Pinkard Youth Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of youth. The organization sponsors educational workshops, seminars, activities and events that will educate and expose young people to opportunities that will enhance their awareness and need for community service.

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