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Zakair describes himself as determined. He’s that and more. When faced with an opportunity or a chance to reach one of his goals, Zakair pursues it as much as possible. Zakair possesses something special that belies his young age (now 22): he can see the life he wants for himself, and he’s working hard to manifest it. He embodies determination.

Zakair at his graduation in 2019 from YouthBuild Philly Charter School.

YSRP’s team first met Zakair in 2016, when he was just fifteen. He had been arrested for the first time in his life and was charged in the adult justice system. We partnered with his attorney, and eventually, his case was decertified, transferring jurisdiction back to the juvenile court system. Since then, we have walked alongside Zakair, offering support, resources and opportunities along the way.

And, it wasn’t long before Zakair reached his goal of earning his high school diploma. With his characteristic determination, according to YSRP Director of Advocacy Emily Robb, “he welcomed the connection to YouthBuild Philly Charter School, and he was determined to succeed there, which he did–earning his high school diploma the following year.” He even had perfect attendance. As Emily says, “he makes lists, then he checks everything off of them.”

Over the years, Zakair has stayed in close touch as he pursued his goals. He has participated in Intergenerational Healing Circles, and he has made good use of resources and opportunities we’ve helped connect him with – resume writing workshops, job interviews, chances to share his story with public officials and advocates to advance justice reform. For each, Zakair has added his own personal flavor to the skills he learned, and invested in his own growth.

In fact, Zakair set up a Mutual Responsibility Agreement (MRA) with MSW intern Natalie Webb. The MRA would allow Zakair to earn incentive payments from YSRP toward reaching the goals he set for himself.

Within a year, he says, “All my goals? I accomplished them.”

Job? Check.

Apartment? Check.

Car? Check.

So, he made a new list of MRA goals. It is full, revealing his limitless potential:

Open a bank account.

Establish credit.

Register an LLC.

Get a bank loan.

Get a truck to start his trucking business.

photo by Shira Yudkoff

Zakair is quite literally driving toward a future of stability and prosperity. “I’m about to be a boss,” he says. “Give me until 2025.”

photo by Naomieh Jovin

He continues: “I know my worth,” he says. “I’m trying to rush this process, so I can live the life I want to live.”

Natalie says, “when we talk now, it’s not so much about what Zakair wants to have and to be. He’s able to talk more about the life he’s living and enjoying the here and now.”

When told that the entire YSRP community is excited to see his next chapter, Zakair says, nonchalantly: “I ain’t playing. I’m trying to get this done.”

We at YSRP know Zakair will get it done. And, we will be cheering him on every step of the way as he brings his entrepreneurial vision to reality.

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