Earl Skinner, the Point Community Development Corp.’s after-school coordinator, has won the 2011 PASEsetter award, granted annually to five cream-of-the-crop youth development professionals from across the city.
Skinner and the other winners will each receive a $5,000 award for their agencies.
The 38-year-old Brooklyn native started out as a literacy tutor in the Point’s after-school program in 2002, after a friend saw an ad for the job on Craig’s List and passed it on. He quickly moved up from that position, but he’s never moved away.
“The whole time I’ve been at The Point it’s been about discoveries,” says Skinner, who was majoring in English and Communications while doing administrative work at Hunter College when he first came to the Point.
Then, when a position came open as coordinator of the after-school program, Skinner applied, despite his lack of prior experience managing large groups of children.
“They asked me if I’d work with kids and I said I’d work anywhere,” Skinner recalled.
“At first, I didn’t have a clue,” he said of his first days on the job. “It’s like, oh, I didn’t know I could do this. But if you stick with it, it’ll all get better. ”
Now Skinner, who once imagined he would spend his days working as a college administrator, manages hundreds of young people, calms anxious parents, mediates disputes, and gives direction to scores of high school volunteers from the City Year program who work with the children.
Another skill Skinner says he has picked up during his nine-year tenure at the Point, along with managing big groups of kids, is bringing people with common goals together.
“When I started at The Point, I noticed there was this tunnel vision,” he recalls of the disconnect between programs within the Point. “Nobody thought to interact.”
Helping bring people together is what Skinner calls “social architecture.”
For the last three years, Skinner has run workshops he calls “So You Think You Can Rap” at the Bronx Charter School for the Arts in Hunts Point, helping young people hone their spoken word and rapping skills. More recently he has begun leading “Beats, Rhymes, and Life,” a Point-based version of a program that originated on the west coast that uses a therapeutic model to help young people deal with their problems creatively.
Skinner, who still lives in the house he grew up in in East Flatbush, says the wear-and-tear of a three-hour daily round trip subway commute hasn’t diminished his enthusiasm for the job.
“I went up and I did it, and it changed my life,” he says, matter-of-factly.