Surayya Barbee is intelligent, fiery, and, most of all, passionate about providing our youth exposure and opportunities that groom them for success. Two years ago, Barbee stepped out on faith by answering a call from God that would help her impact the community she lived in and touch others in countless places around the world. The Kids League, which creates educational programming for inner city kids who typically don’t have exposure to enrichment in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), was born. Today, The Kids League continues to provide educational opportunities and exposure to our youth, by partnering them with professionals who also look like them.
Black Enterprise had the unique opportunity to experience The Kids League’s annual celebration event and speak with Founder of The Kids League, Surayya Barbee, about her inspiration, challenges, and goals.
Black Enterprise: What compelled you to start The Kids League?
Barbee: What compelled me to start The Kids League was the desire to be purposefully driven, in such a way, that impacts society. Creating The Kids League was an answer from God about the many questions I asked regarding my purpose here on Earth. Once I acknowledged to myself that I have the “make-it-happen” power to change and uplift people, the Kids League became my gift to the world from God.
There is a connection for me; I grew up in an impoverished community, but mentorships and programs like ours helped to shape my thinking and gave me hope. It gives me great pleasure to provide that love to others.
BE: What have been some of the biggest day-to-day challenges about running your nonprofit?
Barbee: Some of our challenges have been acquiring grants to run the program. To date, we are running several initiatives from several different sites. We’ve pulled it off through independent fundraising efforts, yet in order to crest sustainability, we must acquire proper funding. Learning and navigating through the grant process as well as various systems and deadlines takes patience and skill, which we are in the process of [mastering].
While the demands for enrichment programs are high both within the school system and within inner city communities, the participation of families including themselves in the process is minimal. Basically, gathering the community to participate in its own evolution has been challenging. The key for us is to keep pushing, and with time, talent, energy, and funds, eventually progress will happen.
BE: What would you say is the most important work that The Kids League is doing today?
Barbee: The most important work The Kids League is currently doing is creating experiences that will impact a child for a lifetime. For two consecutive years, we’ve taken students to the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, where students also participated in reading with the First Lady, among many activities. This experience was unforgettable, as the children had real life interaction with prominent people that also look like them. It was a priceless experience, and screams, “Yes I can!”
The Kids League has also developed a partnership with Touro College of Medicine in which students work in a laboratory with doctors, examining and learning about heart, brain, and lung functions, as well as medical terminology. Less than 4% of African Americans are in the medical profession. The idea is to interest them and expose them to possibilities, and support them in the process.
BE: What’s your future vision for The Kids League?
Barbee: We envision providing children with a safe, fun, loving environment that encourages them to explore and discover their passion. We imagine creating a way of thinking that encourages everyone to love and support each other as a way of life.
Our future vision for The Kids League is to own our very own facility filled with enrichment and resources for community support. We envision providing mentorships for youth to groom them for success, and partnerships with other organizations, so we may expand our reach of services.