Black Pioneer Group Focuses on Future of Youth
February 25, 2010
Sybil Harber was a popular midwife in Lakeview, in Southern Oregon at the edge of the high desert. She was the mother of Cowboy Bert Harber.
The Oregon Historical Society: 23608 Sybil
Chair Robert L. Delgardo describes the group’s work as twofold.
The 20-year old group organizes a vast collection of photos, objects and stories chronicling pioneers who settled in Washington state and elsewhere, which they display at various locations especially during Black History Month.
“We also broke off an educational piece from that, understanding that a lot of those settlers and those who have contributed to the Pacific Northwest went to historically Black colleges,” Delgardo says.
For the past 11 years the pioneer organization has packed up 30-50 Washington teens for a two-week road tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the south and southeast. The next tour ships out March 28, and students can visit schools in Washington D.C./Baltimore, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
“Probably 80-85 percent of those students that are seniors end up going to Black colleges,” Delgado says.
Meanwhile the more traditional half of the group is wrapping up its Black History displays at the King County Juvenile Justice Center.
“We were at the Youth Center in order for the kids in juvenile to be part of Black History Month, try to educate them,” he said.
“Our organization is a community organization that is here all year round, we are here in this community to educate these kids regardless of what color they are, to understand themselves.”
Delgardo said it’s important for Black history organizations to reach out to all races and ethnic groups.
“We know that there has to be a balance for kids to feel good and confident about themselves and it’s easy for them to be able to comprehend somebody else’s plight,” he said.
“But when people don’t feel good about themselves, there’s a pointing the finger at other people for holding you back or holding you down when really — I’m not saying that there isn’t racism or any other ism — but by the same token you need to get up off your behind and do something and not understanding that society,” he said.
However Delagrdo stresses that the group’s most important work is in its educational mission, which is wide and encompasses youth at every stage of school.
The pioneers group helps educate youth about college, then tutor them in high school to get their grades up, help them prepare for college entrance exams, and then helps them fund classes and books.
“What happens is they feel like ‘I don’t meet the criteria to go into the mainstream university so I’ll either go out and get a job and call it quits,’ or some of them, they’ll go to a trade school or something of that effect,” he said.
“But the bottom line of it is we want students to have every opportunity to gather the right information so they can make a conscious decision about what direction they want their life to go, rather than thinking it ends right here because I don’t meet the criteria for one learning institution.”
He said his organization runs programs throughout the year to support teens thinking about college.
“And once we get them there we’re always seeking finances and everything else,” he said. “Just last month, our organization had to take care of some students that didn’t have money for books, they fell short on their tuition — so we try to find money and try to keep them in school as well because a lot of them have intentions, but they don’t have the resources.”
Delgardo, ironically, insists that history is shaped by young people who strive for a better life, and that is his group’s mission to support.
“We try to find the resources to help them stay in school because what they’re coming back to, what they’ll fall into, they’ll never get back into going to school,” he said.
To read other articles in The Skanner's Black History edition click here