“I personally didn’t feel like I was prepared for life after high school, and I didn’t learn a lot of things that I needed to know for the real world until after I was out of college,” said Joshua Walker, the 25-year-old founder and CEO of Avenue Music Group, a nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Walker is not the only one to feel this way. Many high schoolers feel lost and thrown right into the world as an adult without knowing how to navigate their way around things. AMG’s goal is to change this situation by preparing students with a mindset and a skill set to excel in life after high school. The organization provides a platform for young entrepreneurs to come in and speak to the students, sharing their stories and conducting workshops and programs that teach real-life skills such as time management, networking, self-education.
“We always start off with ‘How many people feel like high school is teaching you the skills that you need to know in life?’ and out of about more than 2,000 kids that we’ve worked with, we’ve probably got five total that said that high school is actually teaching them the skills,” said Walker.
“I pretty much wanted to make a change and impact those coming up after me, so they can learn these skills as early as possible and be better off in life than I was.”
The organization works with local artists to make sure that everyone brought in to speak to the students is relatable.
“Growing up in Bed-Stuy while walking down the street, you’d see the Chinese restaurant, you’d see the supermarket, you’d see all these different companies and businesses in your own neighborhood, but none of them are Black owned,” said Walker. “None of them are minority owned.” He believes we need to be able to build up our own businesses, keep the money within our communities and build a self-sustaining communities where we are in control of all the businesses in our neighborhoods.
About 90 percent of the local artists who come to talk to the students are African-American, which is important to Walker because he wants the students, who are majority African-American, to know that they are represented. “I think it’s really important for these kids to see people that look like them,” said Walker. “So we have people that are artists, poets, hip-hop artists, singers, dancers, business owners, fashion designers and more. We have a bunch of Black and Brown male and females that we bring in to inspire these kids.”
Keeping in touch with the students through social media and receiving their emails are also important to AMG. “One of the kids we worked with actually got an intern with us, and a job with us,” said Walker. “Other students we kept in contact with finished high school and graduated college.”
While growing up and to this day, Walker was and is inspired by his grandmother, who he describes as the strongest woman he has ever known. He is also inspired by his mother, another very strong woman in his life.
An inspiration outside of the home is JAY-Z. “Because he is from Bed-Stuy, Marcy and his whole story of how he made it from absolutely nothing to where he is right now is just the most inspiring thing,” said Walker. “And his music is dope.”
In 10 years, Walker sees AMG as a nationwide organization. Currently, it is focused on the five boroughs, although they have done some things in Jersey, upstate and California. But he can see the program being in Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and other places where there are underserved neighborhoods to influence children in positive ways.
On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 2018, AMG will continue its culture of giving back. “If you can come through and bring some clothes you’d like to donate,” said Walker. “If not, please, please, please, help us spread the word.”
The event will be held at 957 Marcy Ave., corner of Fulton Street, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You can support Avenue Music Group and all that they are doing on patreon.com/amger.