A Conversation with Gezae Berhane
by Joy Loving
Gezae Berhane is a former participant in Community Lodgings’ youth education program. He was featured in a video that shown during our fall fundraising breakfast. I recently spoke with Gezae about his experience with the youth program and his favorite Community Lodgings memories.
How long were you involved with Community Lodgings?
I was involved from third grade to tenth grade. In 2009, Community Lodgings started a program for high schoolers. My family moved to Fort Belvoir that year, so I was unable to continue. I didn’t have the transportation, and we didn’t have Community Lodgings in Fort Belvoir.
Did any of your siblings participate in the youth program, as well?
I have four brothers. I don’t think my oldest brothers went, but my two younger brothers did.
Which staff person stood out to you the most?
I remember Jessica vividly, because there weren’t that many kids in the program at the time. So she was able to give us a lot of time and attention.
There was one particular tutor–I think her name was Ms. Jasmin–when we integrated across the street to the second location they’d opened. We were able to do extra activities, like walking down the street together. We also had a field trip to Six Flags. We weren’t able to do activities like that before and Jasmin was able to [arrange] that for us. That was awesome!
How did your family find out about Community Lodgings?
From what I remember, my close friend, David, was walking up the street towards the center. I followed him and asked him where he was going. He said he was going to tutoring, and I thought it was interesting that they had a tutoring program in the neighborhood.
It was like a bright light. Jessica was just sitting there smiling and waiting for us.
Do you have a favorite story or memory of Community Lodgings’ youth program?
Community Lodgings gave us gifts on Christmas when our families couldn’t afford them. There were five brothers in my household. My oldest brothers weren’t even involved with the program, and Community Lodgings would still give them presents. I couldn’t believe it!
It means a lot to the kids. It means a lot to me to see them give back. That’s a good leadership example. It gives kids hope that there is something to live for. It wasn’t just about the gifts they gave us; it was the loved they showed us.