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November 16, 2010 > Local non-profit with a global reach

Local non-profit with a global reach

By Simon Wong
Photos By Ron Carino

Soulciety's Executive Director Ron Carino and Program Director Aaron Horner have known each other since 7th grade and have worked within the community since graduating from Mt. Eden High School 15 years ago. Since its inception two years ago, Soulciety has grown rapidly and attracted a loyal following.

In August, Soulciety was presented with awards from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for its work to improve the lives of youth in Hayward, the Bay Area and the Philippines. In mid-October, the University of Phoenix honored Horner with the 2010 Community Service Award.

Soulciety aims to "uplift the spirit of individuals and society as a whole through enrichment and empowerment of the lives of youth, young adults and other members of society and to promote physical, mental and emotional growth and well-being. This is done by helping them develop and realize their creative and leadership potential."

The organization has several programs that reach out to the young.

The Bridge is an overseas education mission program which has visited the Philippines. Staff, volunteers and associates have taken computers, books, school supplies, food, clothes, personal hygiene and medical supplies and taught locals the importance of health. Mentors delivered creative arts workshops including break-dancing, hip-hop and poetry, and sports workshops, such as basketball and baseball, to augment the educational experience. The Bridge will return to the Philippines in January. There are plans to expand the program to South America within the next few years. Contact Ron Carino at ronnie@soulciety.org for more information.

The Early Sunrise Program nurtures child development and builds and strengthens child-parent relationships. The program, based at Calvary Baptist Church, Hayward, serves low-income families with youngsters aged 3-4 years. Parents learn about childhood development and are encouraged to engage with their children through activities such as reading. This also fosters literacy and helps prepare a child for school. Art develops literacy and reading, music, dance, creative arts and cultural performances imbue families with an appreciation of different cultures. Positive representations of one's own culture reinforce self-esteem. To learn more about, or to register for, Early Sunrise, contact Cathy Horner at cathy@soulciety.org (English) or Mariana Aguilar (Espanol) at mariana_aguilar510@yahoo.com

Live Soul Sessions is the only creative arts and leadership after-school program in Hayward. It provides a safe environment in which youth can engage in positive activities that interest them. They are taught how to maintain health through diet, nutrition and dance, the importance of involvement and the leadership skills necessary for effective service to the community. The opportunity to learn how to break-dance, beat-box... with the likes of RJ Kool Raul Navalta is unique. To find out more, contact Aaron Horner at aaron@soulciety.org.

Creative arts are used to raise awareness of the hazards of tobacco through Smoke & Ashes (formerly Project 4A Change). Education includes the tobacco industry's marketing to youth, chemicals in tobacco, how they affect the human body, tobacco-related death, how to manage peer pressure to smoke and second-hand smoking. Founded in 2003, it has reached 20,000 middle school students in San Mateo and Alameda counties, combining education with dance, poetry and music. It takes breath to dance, recite poetry, sing and live. For more information, contact Ron Cari–o at ronnie@soulciety.org.

Soulciety stages Empower, an annual performing arts spectacular. Empower III: Under the Big Top, "featured dance, poetry, music, with a creative twist of circus arts, all wrapped in a powerful storyline and message of self-actualization and purpose," playing to a full house on November 6 and 7 at Chabot College Performing Arts Center, Hayward.

The Ring Master (played by breakdancer RJ Navalta), transforms from a bitter individual to someone who awakens to the love around him and to Ariane (played by Ariane Padaong, a modern dancer) who sees him for who he is. The message is loud and clear. It takes a concerted effort to jettison prejudices, bigotry and firmly entrenched views of the world allowing a more peaceful individual, able to form better relationships, to emerge.

Individuals and organizations interested in sponsoring or partnering with Soulciety should contact Executive Director Ron Carino at ronnie@soulciety.org. For more information, volunteer opportunities, to donate or register for programs, visit www.Soulciety.org.

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