Richard Buery:Co-Founder, President, and Executive Director of Groundwork, Brooklyn, NY by LawCrossing


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   LAW STAR                                                                                       1. 800.973.1177

                           Richard Buery : Co-Founder, President, and Executive
                           Director of Groundwork, Brooklyn, NY
                           [By Charisse Dengler]
                           In Brooklyn, the statistics surrounding young people are not pretty. Studies show that over 50,000 kids between the ages of
                           7 and 14 live in public housing projects, and more than half of the city’s youth live at or below the poverty line. However,
                           studies also show that education programs combined with work experience can drastically increase a student’s motivation to
                           pursue success; that’s why Richard Buery is making sure that the youth of Brooklyn get both good educational programs and
                           plenty of opportunities.

As Co-Founder, President, and Executive               internships when you’re in school, to make       With a full-time staff of 35 and a part-time
Director of Groundwork, Buery is no stranger          cold calls to people at organizations that you   staff of 00, Groundwork serves an average
to the dismal conditions plaguing young               admire,” he said.                                of 600 children on a regular basis and
people in New York.He has made it his                                                                  impacts many more through extra workshops
mission to support the youth of Brooklyn              He also advises taking some classes in the       and teacher assistance.
and, more specifically, the youth of East New         management field in addition to law classes.
York, his home turf. East New York, one of the                                                         Buery’s inspiration for Groundwork began at
roughest areas of Brooklyn, has an average            “One thing I wish I’d done more of in            a young age. His mother, who was a teacher,
high school graduation rate of 40 percent, and        law school is taking more classes in             taught in an East New York school for 30
7 percent of its youth are born into poverty.        organizational management and financial          years before she retired. So she was very
                                                      management of nonprofits,” he said. “So,         concerned with making sure he got a good
Buery, who graduated from Yale Law School             for anybody at a law school that’s part of a     education and was involved in programs that
in 997, pursued his undergraduate degree             university where you might have access to        influenced him in a positive way. However,
at Harvard College. While there, he co-               classes in the business school or a school of    it was while being a part of these programs
founded the Mission Hill Summer Program.              public affairs, I really encourage you, if you   and going to one of the best public high
                                                      know you want to do this, to take advantage      schools in the country that Buery began to
“Basically we started a summer program                of the opportunities and cross-enroll and        experience first-hand the gap between what
where we worked with initially 30 and then            develop as many skills as you can.”              he refers to as the “haves and the have-
about 60 or 70 young people who lived in the                                                           nots.”
Mission Hill housing project, and we moved            Buery went to law school with the knowledge
into the housing project for the summer               that he want to work in the field of social      “There was a real disconnect,” he said. “I
and created an enrichment-based full-day              justice.                                         didn’t feel like I had a real group of friends
summer program that included travel,                                                                   in East New York who were on the same path
reading, sports, [and] camping,” Buery                “I grew up in a low income neighborhood in       as I was or who were focused on the same
said. “I started that the summer after my             Brooklyn called East New York where I work       things that I was beginning to focus on; and I
sophomore year in college, and that program           now; and growing up, I think I developed a       just think that in a lot of communities, that’s
is still running today.”                              strong sense pretty early that I wanted to       one of the biggest challenges that young
                                                      spend my life doing work that would improve      people face. It’s not only the fact that there’s
Buery credits Greg Johnson, who was the               the life of people of color and particularly     such a lack of resources locally—like great
Executive Director of Harvard’s Phillips              young people of color,” he said.                 schools and great programs for those kids
Brooks House organization during Buery’s                                                               that live in poor neighborhoods—but it’s also
undergraduate time at Harvard, for helping            In 2002, Buery and Andrea Schorr co-founded      that there’s not necessarily a peer group to
the Mission Hill Summer Program get off the           Groundwork, a nonprofit organization             encourage you and support you as you’re
ground and encourages law students who are            dedicated to helping “young people               making what I think are good choices about
interested in doing nonprofit work to start           living in high poverty urban communities         your future.”
networking early.                                     develop their strengths, skills, talents, and
                                                      competencies through effective experiential      With the launch of Groundwork, Buery said
“It’s true for whatever you want to do...             learning and work programs.”                     that he hoped to create an organization that
to start networking early, to seek out                                                                 would provide youth with the resources they

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   LAW STAR                                                                                     1. 800.973.1177

need to succeed in life and the communities          moments that come with seeing the students       and showing off what they’ve learned and
of supportive family and friends that                succeed that are the most memorable.             celebrating their success, and that happens
are crucial to a young person’s positive                                                              in a million ways,” he said.
development.                                         Whether he’s celebrating with a student who
                                                     just got accepted to an Ivy League college       ON THE NET
“Right now, we work primarily in and around          (which happened for the first time this
three public housing projects in East New            year), watching a student-run performance        Groundwork
York. In each of those communities, we try           of African dance (which the students video
to develop a series of programs that can             taped and sent to South Africa along with
support a critical mass of children and              a video essay on life in East New York),         Harvard College
families in those developments so that not           standing by as the students turn a parking lot
only can we impact those young people                into a community playground (a playground
directly, but hopefully, we can have an impact       that they designed themselves), or awarding      Yale Law School
on the neighborhood by helping families and          a prize for the Community Service Fair (of
helping children create a network of young           which last year’s winners planted saplings
people who provide another way, another              around their school as a way of helping
example for how you can be successful in an          students who are suffering from asthma),
under-resourced community,” he said.                 Buery said he is proud of the progress
                                                     Groundwork has made in giving Brooklyn’s
When asked what the most memorable                   youth a chance at success.
moment of the creation and success of
Groundwork has been, Buery said that he              “We have the blessing that just about
couldn’t pick just one, but it’s all of the little   everyday we get to see children learning


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