Dear Central Florida and the Urban League Movement,
Seven and a half years ago, I humbly accepted the role as President and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League. New to the Orlando community, I am forever grateful to all those who welcomed me and helped to make Central Florida my home.
It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to lead the Central Florida Urban League. When I first accepted this role, the Central Florida Urban League was in debt and on the brink of collapse. Today, we are thriving. We have grown into a multi-million dollar organization that enriches the lives of thousands in our community annually.
During my tenure, we established new partnerships and after rehabilitating our reputation, re-engaged old ones. These partnerships have led to millions of dollars in grants and donations, allowing us to expand to four locations: Pine Hills, Downtown, Washington Shores and most recently, Sanford. Our affiliate was named Affiliate of the Year by the National Urban League in 2018, a testament to the work of our entire team and our Board of Directors. I leave an organization following its best audit in our 45 year history and with a surplus of millions of dollars in funds and equity - ready to continue to make a difference in our region.
At the beginning of my tenure, our community was going through a very challenging period with local law enforcement which I believed could only be solved by building bridges. As such, one of the first events we supported as an organization was Coffee with a Cop which brought together residents and members of the law enforcement community. This event was meant to re-establish our partnership and begin to build trust between our community and local law enforcement. This one event led to a flourishing relationship, whereas law enforcement began to reach out to our community and engage in a positive manner. We built upon this foundation through the Lt. Debra Clayton Honoring Our Heroes event where annually, we recognized those in law enforcement who went above and beyond to mentor our youth as well as community conversations with local youth. As a result of our incredible successes, I was given the opportunity to testify before the United States Department of Justice and provide a roadmap for other communities to replicate.
We also ensured to prioritize some of the most vulnerable in our community, such as our seniors via our Seniors Engaging Technology program. This program trained seniors how to use basic technology. Our success led to a second iteration of the program which helped our seniors learn how to safeguard their very vulnerable presence online, use social media in order to connect with family members across the world and apply for essential services.
Five years ago, we transitioned again. The CFUL honed its focus specifically to Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship, ensuring that all our resources directly led to breaking the cycle of generational poverty in our community.
We are on the road to accomplishing this goal via the upskilling of adults, the education of our youth at Whitney M. Young Academy and the many thriving relationships we have in the small business community. This has also led to many partnerships, especially within the Education Technology sector. Three examples of these are Foundry College, Sharpen and Higher Ground Education. Foundry College and Sharpen use innovative and engaging technology to respectively upskill adults and help youth close the literacy gap. Finally, working with Higher Ground education has allowed the lower income, inner city youth enrolled at Whitney M. Young Academy to receive a Montessori education.
As our organization grew in prominence locally, we also began to be recognized on a state-wide level. In 2016, Governor Rick Scott first acknowledged our impact via my appointment to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission as he understood the importance of having a community member assist in the selection of judges. This was a clear sign that our organization was on the path to becoming the face of our community. Our prominence continued to grow under Governor Ron DeSantis, who chose the Central Florida Urban League for his first post-inauguration event in February 2019. Personally, I was humbled to be named CEO of the Year by the Orlando Business Journal in 2019, which was followed by three more gubernatorial appointments, which allowed me to continue to represent our community on a statewide level. In 2020, I served on the Re-Open Florida Task Force and was a voice for at-risk youth who suffered tremendously when our state was temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, I was appointed as Chairman of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group to ensure that we develop innovative solutions to reduce recidivism amongst our youth and I also currently serve as the Chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics, which is both a recognition of our organization’s service to our community and the public’s renewed confidence in us. It is said that a public office is a public trust and there is no greater sign of our organization’s return to prominence to be represented statewide.
Finally, I believe that the Central Florida Urban League has the perfect team in place to continue our mission. Our team understands how important we are to the community as well as their personal role in ensuring that our organization continues to thrive. Our partners count on their steady presence at the CFUL and I know you do too.
In closing, I want to assure you that my commitment to our community will not waiver. This organization will always have a place in my heart and I will continue to advocate for our community and for you, on a daily basis. When you succeed, we all succeed.
Glenton Gilzean Jr.