Wright comes full circle, takes off
by Kailee Bradstreet
Published - 07/05/07 - 04:00 PM | 738 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Brandon Wright, 19, grew up at Pulitzer Place "” one of University City's public housing developments. His mother, a single parent with three younger sons, worked full time. Today, Wright can proudly say he's finished his first year at West Point, the prestigious U.S. military academy, but he still remembers a time in high school when he was concerned about his life's direction.

That's when he got involved in a mentoring program provided at his apartment complex by the San Diego Housing Commission that the youth credits as the source for his present motivation and goals.

"It allowed me to see that with great focus and determination you can make it through high school and do very well," Wright said of the program. "It drove me to want more in life, and now I'm going to West Point and have very high aspirations because of the people who affected my life and helped me to be able to get out and see things and feel special "” that was kind of an encouragement to me."

In fact, it had such a profound effect on the young man that he still keeps in touch with his tutor, a college student from the University of California, San Diego who helped him with homework, studying and preparing for the SATs. As part of the program, Wright also was able to participate in a Mission Bay sailing clinic, attend the Del Mar Fair and even had the chance to meet a few of the Chargers.

The San Diego Housing Commission is a public agency that helps low-income families, elderly and people with disabilities. It has more than 1,700 housing complexes throughout the city, seven of which are equipped with computer learning centers such as the one Wright had access to at Pulitzer Place.

Services such as the mentoring program in which Wright participated are a partnership between the commission and several universities, including University of California, San Diego, San Diego State University and the University of San Diego, according to Elizabeth Morris, president and CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission.

Mentors often help younger teens and elementary students learn fundamental academic and technological skills that they may not have access to in other school or family settings, Morris said.

"It's really important, I think, to take the time to show them what's possible for them and to make sure they have access to the tools that will help them get there," Morris said. "In today's world, parents are all needing to work to make ends meet, and it's good for kids to have a constructive place to be rather than having too much spare time."

The commission also partners with the YMCA to provide organized recreational activities for youth at its developments, Morris said.

Wright also participated in a sports program called Inner City Games, co-founded by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1990s to deter youth from drug and gang involvement, which allowed him to gain knowledge of team dynamics and gave him a chance to meet several professional athletes.

Services for adults include classes to further develop computer skills, improve English and teach financial management, according to Morris.

Since rent is based on how much tenants make each month, the commission also provides an incentives program that gives breaks to families who are able to increase their salaries while living in low-income housing. The extra rent fees are put into a savings account for the tenant each month toward a new home or any other goal, according to Morris.

For families such as Wright's, these programs are extremely helpful. Wright recently encouraged his younger brothers to become involved in the after-school program and they are making the most of it, he said.

As for his mother, she couldn't be more pleased about her eldest son's accomplishments, Wright said. It's important to him to remain a positive role model for his siblings and act as a male figure in their lives, he said, mentioning that his help around the house also means a lot to his mom.

"She's very proud of me," he said. "She's always very supportive and tries her best to keep things intact as much as possible while I'm away."

As for his own goals, Wright appears to be on a fast track to success. His first year at West Point "“ which is also the hardest year of training "” went by without any glitches and he is ready to go back for more, he said.

"I'm driving forward and continuing to strive toward my goals, and I just feel proud of myself because I've overcome another obstacle," Wright said. "Now I have something to look forward to, and hopefully one day I'll be able to support and take care of my family."

For more information about the San Diego Housing Commission, visit www.sdhc.net or contact the office, (619) 231-9400. 
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