‘Hope’ And Inspiration

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Westbury-based Espoir celebrates 10 years of serving youth

Espoir founder/CEO Dr. Samarth Joseph, center, accepts accolades from the Westbury School District. From left: Baord member Floyd Ewing, Superintendent Dr. Tahira A. DuPree Chase. board member Robin Bolling, Dr. Joseph, board member Dr. Pless Dickerson and board member Pedro Quintanilla. (Courtesy of Espoir)

A success story was celebrated earlier this year in the lush ballroom of the Garden City Hotel. More than 200 people—some flying in from faraway places—gathered to enjoy the Soirée D’Espoir and support the worthiest of causes. In the spotlight were Dr. Samarth Joseph and the Westbury non-profit she founded on May 7, 2012—Espoir Youth Program Inc.

Espoir provides a myriad of educational and social services to undeserved youth at its location at 570 Main St. in Westbury.

The many activities at Espoir are detailed in this photographic display. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Everyone who spoke of Dr. Samarth at the dinner told of her tenacity and persuasive powers, and that included Vision Long Island Director Eric Alexander, who served as emcee. Head of a smart growth, community planning organization, Alexander commented, “I love being around strong women. And every Friday Dr. Joseph had me on the phone putting all the elements of this wonderful program together. Again, a Sunday night in Garden City—what greater energy?”

Entertainment was supplied by Destined to Dance, a youth group from Baldwin. Linouse Noel organized a “Dress to Impress” contest that turned into a fun game of musical chairs. Paul and Marie-Paul Joseph gave a master class in social dancing and Espoir board member Dr. Sean Semper produced a video named “Reflection: 10 Years of Service.”

Most impressive was the powerhouse vocalist Louise B. Calixte Florestal, who belted out the National Anthem and challenged Whitney Houston herself with her rendition of “Greatest Love Of All.”

A highlight as always were the number of impressive quality raffle items, including several large-screen TVs. One gentleman was a three-time winner, and raffle master Gopal Burgher (also a board member) quipped that the lucky attendee should stop and buy himself a Lottery ticket on the way home.

Elder Haydn Smith of the Bethany SDA Church, Westbury, gave the invocation and praised Dr. Joseph for her hard work and staying the course in hard times. And for building “this community of people one student at a time.”

He concluded by asking God “to confer on her and the board the blessings of hope, wisdom, long life from on high and good health and prosperity.”

Board Chairman Clarence Wilson expressed wonder that Espoir been in existence for 10 years, eliciting cheers.

Louise B. Calixte Florestal impressed everyone with her vocal chops. According to the program, she has lent her musical talents to numerous Espoir events. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

“It has effectively served the Westbury and Nassau County community,” he stated. “Espoir came into fruition in a way that could only have been the result of the hand of Almighty God. It has truly been a blessing and an asset, not only to the children but to the entire community. It’s all about the children and that’s why it exists, because of the children. They’re not just the future, but also the present. We must work together to ensure that they become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Wilson and the rest of the board members made a presentation to Dr. Joseph, as Wilson supplied biographical information. He had met her at a research conference more than 21 years ago, he related.

He noted that she came from the U.S. from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, “and it was no easy transition because she had to leave her grandparents, whom she loved, to come learn a new language, new ways and new customs. She realized early on that because of the language barrier, she would have to work twice as hard as her fellow classmates in order to get to where she felt she needed to be. This is an attitude that she took with her to Westbury [High School], to college at SUNY Fredonia, graduate school at D’Youville College to SUNY Buffalo, where she completed her doctoral studies.”

The evening featured professional photographers and videographers. Here, Reginal and Emmanuella Paul of Haiti get their photo snapped as a portrait light circles around them, They said they were visiting a cousin in Westbury, which has a sizable community of Creole-speaking Haitian immigrants. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

He added, “Dr. Samarth Joseph is the embodiment of hard work and dedication. Her faith in God is something that she strives to live by and incorporate in everything she does. I remember speaking to her when she completed her PhD in 2010. And I asked her, ‘What’s next?’ and she told me, ‘Wherever God leads me, I will follow.’ She went on to say that she wanted to give back to the community in some sort of way. To [give] those who are less fortunate the opportunity to go for their dreams and achieve their heights. She said she would seek to start a non-profit. This was two years before her dream was realized and now it’s 12 years after that brief conversation I had with her, Espoir is one of the most visible youth programs in all of Nassau County. Dr. Joseph has taught at various colleges and universities, published scholarly research articles and papers and she has left an indelible impression on all those who have collaborated with her over the past 10 years.”

Sean Semper said, “Your singular purpose is to help everyone, everywhere where it’s needed, and it’s truly a blessing and divine gift. May you be strengthened by God’s grace and continue this hope and reality you have planted in our hearts.”

Chaplain Manuel Torres, the board secretary, said he met Dr. Joseph A couple of years ago when they were both teaching chaplain classes at RXR Plaza in Uniondale for the New York State Chaplains Task force. It was a 10-week program and he discovered that “she’s a person who had zeal, a love for God and a determination to get done whatever was on her mind.”

Paul and Marie Paul-Joseph show off their social dance moves. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Like others, Torres was hesitant to join the board, but was won over and he did not regret his decision.

“What she does for Nassau County, what she does for Westbury is an amazing thing,” Torres concluded.

Gopal Burgher promised to be brief because he had to announce the winning raffle numbers and he knew people were anxiously waiting for that part of the program.

He had met Dr. Joseph at a conference at SUNY Fredonia, which was also his alma mater.

“She asked me to be on the board,” he said. “Her vision was for working with undeserved kids who otherwise would not have the chance. When she latches onto you it’s like a pitbull. She doesn’t let go (laughter). She wears you down until you say yes.”

Burgher added, “It’s amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish with the kids here in Westbury on what has essentially been a shoestring budget, but the impact has been outsized. And much of that is to Dr. Joseph’s credit. And so tonight I want to salute her and thank her for all that she’s done and all that she’ll continue to do.”

“Wow, 10 years,” Dr. Joseph observed with her booming voice. “Ten years of success. Ten years of hard work and dedication. I just can’t believe it, guys, it has been 10 years.”

Eric Alexander, executive director of the planning group Vision Long Island, served as emcee. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

“I was called to serve,” she told the audience. “At that time I had a vision to create a non-profit organization that would bring joy, happiness and positive transformation to the lives of our youth. Espoir was formed with three major aims. The first one is a need for passion. At Espoir we learn that personal integrity and a sense of purpose can be collaborated with others, both domestically and internationally. Two is the gift of endurance. During the 10 years, it was not easy at all, but Espoir kept its head above the water. Often success is slow in coming and difficult to see. No matter what, we at Espoir continue our good work that is always done by faith and faith alone. And faith is the target that allows us to turn no into yes. When people doubted our mission and our ability to achieve certain goals, faith never failed us. Nothing is impossible if you believe. Greatness flows from people who are determined to do something significant together.”

Dr. Joseph then spoke to Espoir “as a mother speaks to her child with words of advice.”

She counseled to “Continue to put people first in all you do and to make yourself visible. Understanding and empathy must go along with your expectations even as you demand the best from all that you encounter. Be sure that you are always charged up spiritually because you can only run this race if you powered by the only One. So remain steadfast in your mission. Enlighten the world with your vision and care.”

Emcee Alexander said, “Let’s give her a round of applause for her leadership.”

Council General of Jamaica Alsion Rose Wilson joked that she had hoped “to sit quietly at a table, but no such luck. Dr. Joseph, what a firecracker. Give her a round of applause.”

She continued, “Having observed the transformational work of this non-profit which has successfully empowered hundreds of students in Westbury over the past 10 years, I wish to invite you all in joining me in applauding Espoir. Well done. A society becomes great when its elders plant trees whose shade they know they will never enjoy. Such is the diligent work of the board members of this noble organization under the astute leadership of Dr. Joseph. Continue to make a big difference in the lives of many disadvantaged students. [Supporting Espoir} provided real hope to the students who otherwise might be left behind in our society.”

She then raised a toast to the organization.

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jen DeSEna was one of the featured speakers. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jen DeSena joshed that she was so glad she “didn’t have to follow Dr. Joseph, because that’s an eloquent spirit. I’m so very honored to be here with you tonight.”

She thanked those who put together the event, calling it “beautiful and glamorous. Every detail is perfect. Before I became supervisor I was doing work close to my heart. I was executive director of the {Manhasset] Community Against Substance Abuse. We have to teach our kids self esteem. We have to teach them that they’re going to be important someday. The teenage years are very difficult and they’re exposed to horrible things on their smartphones. Unfortunately, we let them have them too soon.”

Destined To Dance, a group from Baldwin, entertained with an eleborately choreographed pair of dances. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

She continued, “I’m so grateful for an organization like Espoir that’s dedicated to helping our kids become strong during these difficult years [when] they need our help. And I’m so glad to support this. You have a friend in me as the supervisor of the Town of North Hempstead. I can’t believe it’s only been 10 years. What you’ve built is so incredible. Our children are our future (praising the singer for nailing the Whitney Houston classic). Thank you, Dr. Joseph for your vision and dedication and being a pitbull—that is what it takes. I pledge to help you in any way I can.”

Nassau County Minority Affairs Executive Director Lionel Chitty said, “I’m glad I’m not the only one who knows that Dr. Joseph is a pitbull (laughter).”

Nassau County Minority Affairs Executive Director Lionel Chitty represented Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman in lauding Dr. Joseph.

He recalled getting a call last decade from Village of Westbury Trustee Bill Wise asking him to meet with Dr. Joseph and help her in any way possible, and “you don’t say no to Bill Wise.”

Chitty noted how the celebration had gone “from a very small gala in a very tiny restaurant to here we are now in Garden City and the place is packed (cheers).”

He presented a citation on behalf of County Executive Bruce Blakeman and also mentioned a citation from County Comptroller Elaine Phillips that would be presented by Village of Westbury Trustee Beaumont Jefferson, who was hired by Phillips for her department after serving as county treasurer.

Chitty concluded by saying, “Dr. Joseph, please keep moving forward and please keep creating our future.”

Representatives of the Rotary Club of Hicksville South accept their organizational honoree plaque. From left: ESPOIR Fundraising chair and board member Gopal Burgher, Espoir founder/CEO Dr. Samarth Joseph, Rizwan Quereshi, Mukesh Modi, Ashok Varshney, ESPOIR Board Chair Dr. Clarence Wilson Jr., and Espoir Board Secretary Manuel Torres. (Courtesy of Espoir)

Westbury School District Superintendent Dr. Tahira A. DuPree Chase praised Dr. Joseph for helping to make Westbury a world-class school district.

The district, the superintendent went on, “has benefited tremendously from the great work that Espoir has done. She works really closely with our students and with our schools. And so within my second week as superintendent, Dr, Joseph wanted me to know the great partnership she had established with our students, our principals and our central office. What makes a school district great are great partnerships. Dr. Joseph, we thank you for being who you are. We thank you for your devotion, your determination, your tenacity.”

Chase continued, “I’ve learned a lot about you. You and I had dinner together. And you shared your history with me. And I have to say from one woman of color to another, I’m proud of you. I can only imagine what you’ve endured in these 10 years and that journey, climbing the ladder to make Espoir what it is.”

Westbury Board of Education Trustee Robin Bolling, at standing left, was the “odd woman out” during a game of musical chairs that followed a fashion contest. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Chase called on the Westbury Board of Education members to join her on stage to present a bouquet to the founder. In addition to the board members and honorees, the district was also represented by Assistant Superintendent for Business Roger Bloom, Dryden Street Elementary School Principal Gloria Dingwall, Middle School Assistant Principal Christy Baralis and Interim Assistant Principal Christy Thiel.

“I ask that you keep growing, you keep moving, you keep going,” Chase told Dr. Joseph. “You have given so much. You are a role model to our students. You have shown them that they can be anything that they want—regardless of the language you speak, regardless of your ZIP code. Keep fighting for students. Keep being a partner. Continue to be part of the village. I just met you and I look forward to working with you for many years to come.”

Dr. Adrienne Haughton, at right, listens as her daughter Brianna and son Dylan take turns speaking. Along with her husband, Jamal, a lawyer, they have instilled in their children a philanthropic attitude toward education. The children have raised funds in order to donate more than 100 backpacks and coats and recently, five new laptops. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

The Honorees

Governmental Official Honorees:

New York State Senator Anna M. Kaplan and New York State Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine.

Root Honorees:

The Paul Family, The Noel Family and The Joseph Family.

Staff Honoree:

Patricia Heckstall, administrative assistant, ESPOIR Youth Programs Inc.

Individual Honorees:

Brianna, Dylan and Dr. Adrienne Haughton

Louise B. Calixte Florestal

Yvette Gabriel

Suze Dartois Dumas

Jerry Elfassy

Wendy Liotti

Calvin A. Robinson

Garry Joseph

Organizations’ Honorees:

Dr. Joseph Smith, founder/executive director, Long Beach Reach Inc.

Marnelle Paul, founder/president, Women In Touch of Zion

Westbury Middle School Principal Felicia Crawford

Westbury High School Assistant Principal Dr. Paul Alan Pelech

Rotary Club of Hicksville South

Wendy Liotti of Carle Place, center, was one of the honorees. She’s joined on the stage by, from left, ESPOIR’s Gopal Burgher, Dr. Samarth Joseph, Dr. Clarence Wilson Jr. and Manuel Torres. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Espoir Services

Here are some of the services offered by the non-profit:

Homework Help Session

Teen Talk/Crisis Intervention

Peer Mediation Training

Man In Progress Club

Girl Scouts

Piano/Choir/Dance

STEM, Music and Arts

Zumba Fitness/Swimming

STEM Robotics/Hardware

Nutrition/Safe Environment

Community Workshops

Lecture Series

Food Pantry

Counseling/Social Services

ESPOIR’s High School Talk

For information call 516-385-1724 or visit www.espoirinternational.org.

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