Danny was deeply disturbed after seeing how his cousin was treated in the foster care system. He created Together We Rise, an organization that hosts programs for young people in foster care. His org also helps prepare those in foster care to transition to adult life when they turn 18. Here's what Danny had to say about his project.
How did you feel when your first learned of the problem you are addressing?
I felt like I have been living an exceptional and blessed life and I didn’t even know it. I was shocked and saddened to learn about how the foster care system works in one of the greatest countries in the world.
How do you feel about it now?
I feel the same way but I feel like there is a solution in order to ease the pain of the children living through this.
What person or experience sticks with you from when you first started your project?
My younger cousin Roger is always on my mind when helping kids in foster care. For someone so young living in a car and in an inner city, I just could only imagine how miserable and defeated he felt.
Who or what is your inspiration to keep going?
The statistics, the kids, my cousin, and my friends are my inspiration. No one should have to live this life and I don’t believe this problem will ever get solved unless organizations like Together We Rise and others educate people on the issues.
Can you describe the moment you knew that you were actually making a difference?
I left our first sports camp and the kids did not want to leave. They told us they don’t get to mingle with people outside of the group home setting especially people our age. For me, it felt like for that one day, they could just step away from reality and just be a kid.
What was the most difficult roadblock you faced when you tried to start your project? When you were growing it?
The most difficult roadblock was people doubting us because of how young we were. People wondered if we would be really helping kids and if we could really make a difference. Once we started showing people what we did with their money we earned a lot of trust in our community and young people nationwide.
What’s been the biggest lesson through the process?
I would say: protect my image as a CEO. A lot of people look up to me that I was not aware of. After seeing what happened in Kony 2012 I think that a lot of people lost credibility in invisible children after those two videos released of them ( 1. Naked Jason Russell 2. Bragging about Chase).
What has surprised you the most about the journey that has taken you here today?
I never knew how much work it would take to build a national organization. I also never thought that I would get as far as we would today. But with all the support we have been getting nationwide it is something that I have to do because I believe it is what I was put here to do.
What advice do you have for other young leaders who are having a tough time getting their ideas off of the ground?
Never give up… It has been hard for TWR and we have had our ups and downs but that is what makes it worthwhile.
If you could have done one thing differently based on what you know now, what would it be and why?
I would make small adjustments in decisions about our fundraising events and how I approached them. I wouldn’t change a lot because we have learned from everything and I would rather learn now, then in 10 years when there is more on the line.
What’s next for your project?
We have another Build-A-Bike tour we are planning as well as speaking to group home with kids ready to emancipate in order to aid them in the transition out of foster care.
And finally, if you could have any celebrity film a PSA for your organization, who would it be and why?
I think that the foster alumni like Denzel Washington, ICE T, Darryl McDaniels ( RUN DMC ) could get people to listen.
What Can You Do?
Learn more about the Do Something Awards Semi-Finalists.