A Developmental Establishment for Her Community
By: Shavon Shorter Chesney
From studying as a full time senior in college to also working full time, Sophie Gilbert adds CEO of an organization called “ICITE” to her plate.
“I started ICITE in 2018 when the community center in my neighborhood specifically started getting new management,” said Gilbert. “I didn’t feel that the new people who were placed there, were there for the best interest of the kids and their attendance started to dwindle.”
Gilbert created this non-profit organization to aid in the lack of resources in her community. She helps in the development of teens and adults in underdeveloped neighborhoods through advocacy, education, arts, special programs, community service, and humanity work.
Her organization was created after an encounter with a person, she knew very well from her neighborhood and later arrested, told her there was nothing in the community for people like him. She wanted the young people in her neighborhood to feel that they have a place where they can have a positive impact on their life and their future.
Within Gilbert’s organization, she holds clothing drives, a food drive during Thanksgiving, and a coat drive during the winter for homeless shelters. While also collaborating these with homeless shelters for community service work for students.
“I want ICITE to be implemented in school programs, but more specifically the schools in the ‘hood’ that don’t get acknowledged, or the schools losing funding or don’t have funding for art programs or clubs because the money or basic interest in these kids aren’t there,” said Gilbert. “So you have thousands of kids that don’t have a third of the opportunities that others are afforded with.”
In her efforts of creating a place for people in her community, she’s witnessed younger people joining her program than hanging around the gang members in her neighborhood. She provides resources, like art programs, and learning activities that help with their education and homework.
“This is a great way to reach out to teens we serve and help provide them a place to go besides the streets,” said Amanda Thompson. “We create a safe open-minded space, where everyone is able to be themselves, share ideas, change without being judged, and challenge these kids to be more than a product of their environment.”
Creating this organization wasn’t easy for Gilbert because it’s only run by herself with the help of volunteers from her family and friends. She would often have problems with funding and space because of the lack of sponsorship from other businesses and organizations and the lack of centers in her area that would allow space for a smaller organization to implement with their own without overstepping.
Most of the time, the pay she receives from her job she would put into the programs and trips that she arranges.
Even with the help, she faces some challenges of balancing her work, school, and organization. Eighty percent of the funds for her organization comes from herself and twenty percent comes from fundraising events she hosts.
She would organize bake sales, go fund me pages, and donations, but that wasn’t always enough. Due to her young age as well, most people believe she isn’t legit or do not want to fund it because she’s “too young to have experience.”
“I believe the black boys and girls in my neighborhood seeing a young black woman that grew up and is still growing up in the same environment that they are in and is fighting to open doors impacts them,” said Gilbert. “They are motivated to want to be apart of that because they want more for their future than what they have right now.”