Suits for Se­niors founder con­verts loss into lesson

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By DAPHNE TAY­LOR

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -Last Novem­ber was a piv­otal month for Jer­vonte Ed­monds, CEO and founder of Suits for Se­niors, an en­ter­pris­ing non profit that pro­vides free tai­lored suits for twelfth-graders to get them started in life.

Ed­monds quit his full time job work­ing for State Sen­a­tor Bobby Pow­ell, and dove in head first with Suits for Se­niors, pledg­ing to give his or­ga­ni­za­tion all of his at­ten­tion.

But seven days af­ter tak­ing that big leap, Ed­monds found him­self to be the news story him­self, when his car was stolen from a gas sta­tion af­ter a quick cof­fee stop. Twenty five brand new tai­lored suits were in the car. He never did re­cover his car, nor the suits, but has not missed a beat in pro­vid­ing the brand new suits, white shirts, ties and pocket squares for count­less Palm Beach County school se­niors.

"I turned that sit­u­a­tion into a pos­i­tive lesson for the stu­dents," said Ed­monds in a tele­phone in­ter­view this week. "I ad­vised them about be­ing cau­tious and that when tragedy strikes, to bounce back and turn it into a pos­i­tive. To date we've suited 257 stu­dents with free tai­lored suits and ac­ces­sories. Ninety per­cent of our stu­dents go to col­lege; Eight per­cent go to the armed ser­vices and two per­cent start their own business. We've poised these stu­dents for suc­cess," he said.

Ed­monds started Suits for Se­niors out of his own need. “I was end­ing col­lege a cou­ple years ago, and I re­al­ized how much of a strug­gle it was to come up with re­sources to get a good job com­ing out of my se­nior year in col­lege, so there­fore, I founded this pro­gram,” said Ed­monds, who has spon­sors that pro­vide the tai­lored suits for the young men. “This pro­gram is de­signed to de­velop a culture of young men to be greater than the me­dia im­ages and statis­tics of young black males,” said Ed­monds.

The project is also a de­vel­op­men­tal achieve­ment pro­gram that, in ad­di­tion to suit­ing up male se­niors with free, the pro­gram also of­fers an eight-week course that teaches lead­er­ship skills, job train­ing prepa­ra­tion, fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills and more. Ed­monds is try­ing to change the course of young males’ lives one young boy at a time – start­ing with a tai­lored suit.

The en­tire foot­ball team at Wil­liam T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gar­dens just got suited up with their free gar­ments, as did the gen­eral body at Palm Beach Lakes and Palm Beach Gar­dens high schools.

In ad­di­tion to pre­par­ing young men f or col­lege, Ed­monds said they are also work­ing to­wards low­er­ing t he black male vi­o­lence rate. "We make sure they are fi­nan­cially lit­er­ate and go off to col­lege and stay in col­lege," he said.

Ed­monds said he's grate­ful for the com­mu­nity's as­sis­tance. "We're only able to thrive thanks to the sup­port of the com­mu­nity."

For more in­for­ma­tion about Suits for Se­niors, call 321-604-7590 or visit the web­site at: www.suits­fors­e­niors.org

PHO­TOS COURTESY OF SUITS FOR SE­NIORS

PAY­ING IT FOR­WARD: Jer­vonte Ed­monds cre­ated Suits for Se­niors to help high school stu­dents on their road to suc­cess.

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