Haiti to New York
Born in Haiti, Emmanuel Fineus came to the United States hoping to live a better life, obtain the tools necessary to achieve success and make his family proud. Emmanuel moved to Brooklyn, New York at the age of nine to live with his father and stepmother. “My father wasn’t there for me. He chose my stepmother over me. I was not her child,” Emmanuel explains as he dives into the troubled past that brought him to Hope For Youth.
Darkness to Light
Emmanuel’s strongest influence and role model was his older brother, a gang member who was often in trouble with the law. When his brother went to jail, Emmanuel sought support and comfort in the streets. As time progressed, Emmanuel followed in his brother’s footsteps and started to get into trouble too.
“I was cold hearted,” he describes. After being kicked out of his father’s house in Long Island at the age of thirteen, Emmanuel found himself in and out of the courtroom. Eventually, he was placed in HFY non-secure detention, a program remanded by Suffolk County Family Court. He was later placed in HFY’s Babylon group home where he found it difficult to adjust and was transferred to the Bellmore group home to complete high school in Long Beach.
“Emmanuel rebelled against his father,” explains Eromosele, the Assistant Program Manager at the Babylon group home. Upon arriving at the Babylon home, Emmanuel displayed feelings of anger and loneliness. “The first day I felt like I didn’t belong there,” he said looking back at his first experience at HFY. “You can’t look backwards,” said Eromosele. “You have to look forward and challenge yourself.” These were the words of wisdom the staff expressed to the young teen who was frustrated with the world and blamed his father for his actions.
Emmanuel was encouraged to let go of his past and to look to the future. He began to realize that if he wanted his situation to improve, he needed to take ownership of his behavior and change his mentality. While living in the Babylon home, Emmanuel was taught independent living skills and how to be a role model. “He is a leader!" Eromosele describes explaining the strong influence Emmanuel had on the other residents with whom he lived. “I have to try to do something for mom,” Emmanuel would express to staff. He was motivated to make money because he felt the responsibility of taking care of his mother who was still in Haiti. He acknowledged that he had the ability to work hard and reap the rewards of knowing that he was helping the only family he was connected to. When Emmanuel began to work and provide for himself, he inspired his peers to become more independent as well. This was the start of great change in Emmanuel’s life.
“He is good at heart,” describes HFY staff member Peledge from the Bellmore home where Emmanuel was transferred. When Emmanuel had the means to provide for himself, he would share with the other teenage boys and help pay for extracurricular activities. “He tried to change the poor attitudes of others,” Peledge says. Emmanuel learned to change his language and focused on positive talk that would motivate his peers. He acknowledged that encouraging words and a confident attitude made a difference in his environment. Emmanuel empowered others to take life’s challenges and turn them into successes.
“Emmanuel always looked for ways to better himself,” said Mike, a supervisor who worked with Emmanuel in describing how the adolescent found his passion and brought it to reality. “Life in the Group Home,” a video Emmanuel created, originated as a way to deal with his living situation. He demonstrated great interest in film and began to consider the possibilities of pursuing his new hobby as a career. When staff recognized his talent, they encouraged him to follow his dreams of becoming a film director. Emmanuel opened up to staff and began trusting. With the guidance of the mentors around him, Emmanuel sought the materials and skills to take his desire to make films and turn it into a profession.
View a sample of Emmanuel's work in the video below:
“Everything happens for a reason,” he explains when expressing how he found his purpose in life at Hope For Youth. As a start to his film career, Emmanuel was presented with the opportunity to display his talent at the Hope For Youth Annual Awards Dinner. With the self-confidence he gained from the support of staff and his therapist from HFY Family Service Center, Emmanuel began researching how to become a film producer. Counseling helped him develop a business plan to achieve his goals.
Looking Up and Beyond
When Emmanuel met an underground rapper and produced a music video, he began to establish a reputation by word of mouth. Now at the age of twenty-two he has a clientele of almost twenty music artists and film writers and over one hundred music videos on YouTube. Some of his most recent work has been with Reek Da Villain, a well-known underground rapper acknowledged for the song “Mechanics” featuring Busta Rhymes and Swizz Beatz. Emmanuel has also worked with the YouTube sensation Brian Bradley, a fourteen-year-old rapper from Brooklyn, who has made headlines on the reality show The X-Factor.
“The staff members weren't there for the money,” he describes as he reminisces about the support he received from the HFY staff. In the past year Emmanuel has made a living producing for local music and film artists. This allows him to live independently, go to school at Nassau County Community College, and send money to his mother in Haiti. “It all started at HFY,” he says with conviction. This is only the beginning of a bright future in the field.
“I felt the pain,” he explains. “People treated me fairly and understood me.” He describes his experience living in the group home as feeling like he was being heard and respected. Emmanuel developed a relationship with staff, realized he had a voice and no longer needed to keep his pain inside. “I hope to become a big-time director by the age of 24,” he says.
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