The Elijah Cummings Youth Program (ECYP) nonprofit recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a fundraiser event. Maryland Governor Wes Moore, other elected officials, supporters and ECYP alumni and current fellows were featured during the milestone.
ECYP’s beginning dates to 1998 when the late U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings ( Maryland’s 7th Congressional District) came together with leaders from Maryland’s Jewish community. They formed a two-year leadership opportunity that builds bridges between the Black and Jewish communities. Over 300 ECYP fellows have been served thus far.
“The program’s efforts are infused with the spirit of bridge-building exemplified by the longstanding relationship between the late Congressman and the Baltimore Jewish community,” said Jennifer Cummings, daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.
Youth leaders are making noteworthy strides. Ninety-five percent of all ECYP alumni graduated from college, according to Jennifer. She serves as a member of the ECYP board and events chair while volunteering to keep the program’s momentum intact.
“I joined the ECYP Board shortly after my Dad passed away and have seen firsthand the impact of this program on the lives of the brilliant young people who are our fellows,” Jennifer said. “High school juniors and seniors from Maryland’s 7th Congressional District apply to the program and are admitted at the end of their sophomore year. ECYP fellows travel to Israel during the summer between their junior and senior years in high school for one month. Fellows reside at Yemin Orde, a youth village in Haifa that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. ECYP is proud to have had Yemin Orde Youth Village as a partner since 1998.”
Approximately a dozen high school juniors and a dozen high school seniors participate in ECYP each year. To date, 21 trips have been taken by ECYP’s young leaders.
Jennifer added, “Fellows are paired with Israeli teens with ancestry from over 24 countries, including Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. Together, the American and Israeli teens tour modern and historic sites in Israel, such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nazareth, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. When not traveling, these young leaders participate in daily workshops on diversity, conflict resolution and leadership. This exciting time away from home helps students gain independence, learn more about themselves and develop respect for others.”
Jennifer noted numerous program opportunities that ECYP fellows are afforded through the program, including an ability to learn about the Jewish community in Baltimore; advocate for issues in their community; gain an understanding of Israel and the Middle East; learn about the legislative process in Maryland and more.
Jackson, a 17-year-old Owings Mills, Maryland resident who attends Beth Tfiloh High School began participating in ECYP in the fall of his junior year.
“We get to participate in community service activities, mentor underprivileged children, travel to Israel, and create a podcast on issues in our society,” he said. “This program has allowed me to become a better person by helping my community and the people around me that need it. It has also given me the opportunity to travel to Israel and use my Jewish education to help other non-Jewish teens learn about Israeli and Jewish culture in Israel.”
Jackson also explained that since he attends a predominantly white Jewish day school, he is often the only Jewish person of color in any situation where he finds himself.
He added, “This program has allowed me to surround myself with a different, more diverse community, making it easier for me to express and embrace my culture.”
Kare, an 18-year-old McDonough school student, also sang the praises of ECYP. She had an opportunity to travel to Israel and participate in a podcast that was recently started called “Justice is Not Just Us.” The nine-month internship will allow her to explore different issues through it.
“We get to reach out to representatives, to advocacy programs, to different people in the community to come on the podcast and share their story,” Kare said.
Kare will graduate from high school June of 2024. She is planning to attend college and study political science and international affairs.
“In the past couple years that I’ve been part of the program, it made me realize that the work and the advocacy and the political and the social changes that I want to create. I want them to start here. Baltimore is my home, and this program has kind of taught me that I want to give back to my community and bring change here. So, I hope that wherever I go, I come back home to Baltimore and start here first,” Kare said.
Find out more about ECYP and how to apply for the program by visiting https://www.ecyp.org/apply-for-ecyp.