YMI in Orosi: Changing Lives

Meet Eddie Valero. Eddie graduated from Cornell and lived in New York City for 10 years. After returning to his hometown of Orosi, he joined the school board. He quickly noticed that there was a decline in male achievement and involvement. After researching and compiling data, it proved him correct. Young men were falling behind and there was no support system in place to help prevent it. Eddie realized there was a detrimental effect on students who didn’t have fathers or father-figures in their lives. That is why he founded the Young Men’s Initiative in 2013.

He began hosting small groups and as the word spread throughout the community, there were quickly 20-25 young men in the program per year. The weekly programs consist of guest speakers, outreach activities, and time to share with each other. As the organization was growing, Eddie was sitting on his grandparents’ porch and realized that the house across the street was for sale. With only $100 in his bank account but with parents who fully supported his dream, he purchased the property.

He wanted to find a way for the organization to be self-sufficient beyond grants and local support. With a lack of employment in the community and little job readiness for students, he created a space that employs both students and community members – a cafe that sells gourmet paninis, salads, snacks, and drinks. Students and staff at Orosi High School frequently visit for lunch and after-school snacks. The space is modern, with comfortable couches and a bathroom that screams New York. Local artists have installed murals throughout the home, each one telling a story.

In addition to the cafe, retreats, workshops, reunions, educational field trips, community outreach, and fundraising, YMI is starting a food pantry to provide food for those who may not be able to afford the cafe or who do not have enough food at home. Eddie and his staff could use some help setting up and organizing the pantry, so if you’re interested in volunteering at the Young Men’s Initiative Food Pantry, call (559) 528-4700.

The Young Men’s Initiative is determined to develop the next generation of courageous, motivated and successful young men. What an amazing asset to our community!

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