EDGARD — What started as a Christmas bonfire tradition in the West Bank in 2014 has morphed into a nonprofit with a vision to equip the next generation of leaders with the tools for success.
Through the ROC organization, husband and wife Maurice and Lakisha Rousseve and community leader Donnie Roybiskie are building a strong foundation for young people through a series of programs and activities designed to help young people reach their full potential.
“It all started with us, we did something in the community around Christmas to help the community and help the kids. At first it was just family, then it spread to the whole street, then to the community,” Lakisha Rousseve said.
The Christmas event, which includes a bonfire, fireworks and toy giveaway made possible through partnerships with local businesses, revealed the powerful impact of community engagement.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ROC has expanded to include summer programming to provide information, tools and life skills to children. After Hurricane Ida in 2021, ROC held monthly get-togethers with the youth of the Edgard Library Branch so that the children had something positive to look forward to despite the destruction surrounding their homes and schools.
Last week, the ROC hosted its Vision of the Heart Leadership Youth conference at the West St. John Gymnasium. An interactive Christian rap performance and free snoballs were the icing on the cake for the educational event, which featured top-notch guest speakers including student-athlete turned business owner Collis Temple III and Lt. Gen. retired Russel Honoré, best known for leading Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
“Making sure kids have that solid foundation is what the organization is all about,” Rousseve said. “This particular event was all about leadership for young people, building a strong foundation and the different struggles they may face as a leader, whether that leadership is with a business, the community, the military or the government. We want to provide them with the tools they need to succeed and show that anything they dream of can be achieved. It is possible, it is achievable and barriers can be overcome.
Temple shared that he always aspired to lead a successful life by pursuing something he was passionate about while making a difference in the lives of others. If anyone had asked him how to achieve that vision when he was in college, the NBA would have been his answer.
“Everything I wanted in my vision, I’m lucky to have it. It just didn’t turn out the way I thought it would,” he said.
Temple had extensive summer league experience and was preparing to enter the developmental basketball league. However, a serious ankle injury put him on another path in life.
Temple transitioned from the basketball arena to the business arena and became national sales manager and agency owner at Primerica. He now has a net worth of several million dollars.
During this week’s youth leadership conference, Temple told the children to repeat after him and say, “All you can do is all you can do, but all you can can do, that’s enough”.
The students also learned that when they find themselves at a crossroads, the bumpy road that requires a lot of work is often the best avenue.
Before being chosen to lead the nation out of a crisis, General Honoré was a young man who learned from adults who took the time to talk to him. He encouraged young people to bring a notebook or tablet and take notes when they have the opportunity to receive advice. He also reminded them to remain diligent in education.
“Leadership starts where you are at school,” he said. “The first step to leadership is reading. If you can’t read, you can’t understand. Once you learn to read, be careful what you read because what you read will define what you think, and what you think will define what you do.
Honoré told the students not to let anyone top them, whether they choose to become a bus driver, an astronaut, or anything in between.
The next ROC community event will be a youth academy called SOAR – Leadership with Strong Foundation. While the venue is yet to be announced, SOAR will kick off in September and will attract participation from a variety of people and organizations passionate about inspiring young people. The registration form is available at https://bit.ly/3NmfsC7.
For more information, follow ROC on Facebook (@builtontheroc) or by email