When the odds are stacked against you, you have three choices: you can succumb, beat the odds by luck, or change the odds in your favor.
This year’s Community Service Award recipient, Kevin Ervin ’04, has always opted to change the odds.
Ervin is the executive director of Change for Kids, a youth development nonprofit in New York City. Ervin himself hails from Brooklyn, NY, and grew up in a rough neighborhood where he wasn’t allowed to play outside. Today, he has dedicated his life to creating opportunities for youth in communities that are under-resourced and underserved.
From age five through 25, he spent every summer at Camp Vacamas in New Jersey, where he developed a love of people and community service as well as an interest in different cultures. Camp, for him, didn’t have a racial, cultural or socioeconomic divide. Everyone got dirty the same way; everyone smiled just the same.
After attending public school, he enrolled in Hotchkiss, where he combined his musical talents and leadership skills to bring a fresh, new approach to the School’s digital media program. He was commissioned to write a digital musical score for the Hotchkiss annual dance recital, wrote and produced two Taft Day films, and remixed “Fair Hotchkiss” with then-headmaster, Skip Mattoon, as a part of a commissioned anthology of Senior Hotchkiss music recordings he produced.
After graduating from Hotchkiss, he took time off to study music. During this period, he discovered he had a passion for working with youth in a South Bronx enrichment program. When the program was cancelled due to budget cuts, Ervin had the first opportunity of his career to start changing the odds. Raising $135,000 in one month, he started the first iteration of Gaining Life’s Other Ways (GLOW), an after-school initiative run by Vacamas Programs for Youth. He eventually expanded the program to serve students from 16 schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and New Jersey. For his effort, Ervin was awarded leadership fellowships by the Center for Creative Leadership and Rutgers Institute of Ethical Leadership.
He went on to help Renaissance Youth Center grow its after- school and teen programming. After raising more than $2 million in funding in his first six months, he helped Renaissance Youth Center expand its work in the South Bronx by 3000%! By that time, he realized his true calling was in youth development, and teaching teens leadership skills.
Kevin took a hiatus from non-profits to sharpen his administrative acumen in the New York City Department of Education, where he was tasked with strengthening operations at Satellite Academy High School, the #1 Transfer High School in NYC. There he helped over-age, under-credited students achieve academic success and graduate from high school. As someone who looked like they did, and came from a place like they did, he was able to easily relate and educate them in a caring, attainable way.
Kevin holds a B.A. in Leadership from Northeastern University and an executive master’s in public administration from New York University.
As the executive director of Change for Kids, Ervin has bolstered the vision and mission of the nonprofit, expanded the organization’s reach to more students in the New York City public school system, and refocused the organization on student agency. Most recently, when schools closed in the city in response to the pandemic, Ervin created a full digital platform for students in only six days, and he raised nearly $2 million to open a South Bronx remote learning center for students to attend on days when they were not in school.
“I believe that when possibilities are reimagined, the world will be a brighter place created by brighter people,” he says.
Ervin will be honored in a virtual All-School Meeting on May 17.