A mother, singer, friend, volunteer, and strong leader in our community. Shelene has been a part of our family for a long time. Learn about her and all of the steps she is taking to empower youth through the YUPP Organization.
(5 min. read)
Shelene and her husband, Theo at our 2019 Holiday Wish Drive.
Q: You have been a volunteer at Family Giving Tree for over 10 years! What first got you into volunteering and how has generosity changed your life and the others around you?
A: The mission of FGT caught my heart from the very beginning. I initially came with an agency that was receiving gifts. I had never seen anything like their Holiday Drive. The following year, I debuted a nonprofit children’s choir and invited staff of FGT to be some of our special guests. They fell in love with one of our students at the time, affectionately known as “little Nevin.” I remember one time, while I was pregnant with my daughter, I volunteered at the Mervyn's warehouse with my family and Nevin's family. I’ve been there ever since. Volunteering with FGT is an invaluable gift. Over the years, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to see transformations from hopelessness to being filled with hope and joy through the generosity of FGT.
Over the years, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to see transformations from hopelessness to being filled with hope and joy through the generosity of FGT.
Q: Tell us about Youth Utilizing Power & Praise (YUPP) and what they do. How did the organization get started and why?
A: Youth Utilizing Power and Praise Nonprofit is a cross-cultural network that seeks to empower the whole being through performing arts, fine arts, public speaking, and sports. We serve persons between the ages of 6-25. The organization started with myself and my Hispanic friend. It quickly became my brother’s desire to create cultural diversity and support through the means of the arts on the Eastside of San Jose.
Q: Tell us about the impact you feel YUPP has made (if any) in the African American community.
For the past 15 years, YUPP has become a safe place for many youths from across the Bay Area. We have had a broad scope of youth over the years, from foster care to wealthy children who are missing attention, love, and everything between. Because of this concept of family, we’ve had to do rescues from hotel rooms, reporting of abuse, bringing some of the students to live with us for a period, funerals for some of our babies (they will always be my babies) killed unjustly. On the other hand, we have celebrated marriages, high school and college graduations, sponsored their businesses, and in some cases, our greatest celebratory moment was just knowing that they chose to lay down gang activity to live a better quality of life. We’ve had youth with learning and physical disabilities, who learned how loved and known they were, defy the odds through our programming. One of my favorite moments a few years ago was seeing one of our students with down syndrome perform a solo dance piece at our annual performance. We’ve recorded two professional CDs, taken youth (some of which who never traveled before) across the nation on tours. We’ve done annual arts performances since 2007, Live Out Love Sessions (a suicide awareness event for youth), and annual backpack and toy giveaways. We’ve also served in senior homes and food banks. We teach that as you are blessed, be a blessing to others.