Learn Better; Do Better; Be Better By Joseph Oteng “Education is not a tool for development – individual, community and the nation. It is the foundation for our future. It […]
Learn Better; Do Better; Be Better
By Joseph Oteng
“Education is not a tool for development – individual, community and the nation. It is the foundation for our future. It is empowerment to make choices and emboldens the youth to chase their dreams.” Nita Ambani
How do you want to change the world? How do you want to change your world? How do you want to be remembered? These are questions that may not be at the forefront of our minds consistently but underscore our innermost ethics, motivations, and passions. The way someone answers those questions speaks volumes about their character and their worldview. Ask EYEJ Founding Member, Board Director, and Curriculum Committee Lead, Ben Wenger, and you get a quirky amalgamation of interests that create a decisive vision for making a difference by helping others help themselves. Ben is most interested in the transformative power of dialogue, education, and mentorship for empowerment.
Ben said, “I want to make things better, and for the me that is developing things to benefit youth. It is planting seeds and watering them as much as I can – when or if they bloom and succeed is up to them, but as much I can I want to be someone who supports growth. I can only take ownership for what I have provided – the rest is up to others,” about his approach to community engagement. That’s the same ideology he takes into the rest of his life. He said, “As often as I am able, I ask why not? That concept of appreciative inquiry, and positive psychology that focuses on our strengths rather than deficit thinking can make all the difference – especially for those who are most impressionable.”
Ben is wholeheartedly engaged in dynamic work in your empowerment both professionally and personally. From his work to support young people who have aged out of foster care gain the tangible skills necessary to not just survive but thrive in a society that often overlooks them, to his role in developing the curriculum employed by EYEJ for the discussion series with the Cleveland community of students most vulnerable to cyclical systems of oppression, Ben is a force for revolutionary empowerment. Ben said, “[EYEJ] is proactive intervention for youth. It is unique in that it is prescriptive instead of reactive. [EYEJ] gives youth to connect with real folx with a wide variety of experiences, narratives, and perspectives” about how EYEJ aligns with his worldview.
For Ben, the political time, space, and place we find ourselves in has been an imperative call to action. He said, “It’s been disheartening to hear the nonchalant comments or the way students have been devalued that impact the youth in our country, and specifically my community.” He continued, “I want to provide the youth with a different thought process, and expose them to career opportunities they never would have thought possible.” Ben is invested in changing the lives of young people for the better, and that change comes through the exchange of stories with dialogue.
That call to action for Ben is for everyone to find something that gives them purpose and helps them making meaning. It does not have to take much time but it needs to be sustainable commitment from his perspective. Ben believes that as much as we give back to the community we have to be open to being positively changed by those experiences as well. It’s just as important to do the work for others as it is for us to do the work for ourselves, being part of the community instead of external to it.
What does Ben want to be known for? He espoused that he wanted to be known for trying and striving to help people and make things better. In admiration of the selfless leadership demonstrated by one of his colleagues, Karen McHenry, Ben shared that he wanted to always do his best to go above and beyond to service students, and to live his life with no regrets. Once one has the means and ability to do better, then we have to be better.
To find out more about EYEJ – go to eyej.org
Ben Wenger is EYEJ’s Board Director – Curriculum and Director of Transitional Living, Independent Living and the LGBTQ Transitional Living Demonstration Programs for Youth and Young Adults for Bellefaire JCB.