Young, Passionate, SWT (sweet) & Giving – Meet Syreeta Gates
It’s amazing how the concept of giving back can go such a long way when done correctly. For 21-year-old Syreeta Gates, giving back to her community isn’t just a nice thing to do, it’s her passion and continuous mission.
It all started for the Jamaica, Queens native while watching her mother and grandmother as a child. “Both my mother and grandmother were teachers and part of various organizations in which they volunteered their time,” Gates recalls. “They were always giving back in their own way, whether it was with school, healthy eating choices, or relationships.”
As a child Gates immediately took an interest in giving and trying to help her community. “Giving? I been doing that forever. I just didn’t link it with service, that connection came later,” she explains.
Syreeta Gates’ Realization
In the course of giving back and growing into a young adult, Gates realized she had also developed an interest in seeing young adults doing positive things. One day while browsing the internet she came across a shirt that caught her attention on Polo.com. The shirt was designed by Polo and featured some young adults. Something about it all intrigued her so Gates did her research and called up Polo who transferred her to Divine Bradley, founder of Team Revolution. Realizing the people at Team Revolution were like-minded individuals that could help her develop her skills for giving back, she joined the organization. “I called because I saw young people that looked like me,” Gates replied truthfully. “I never saw that before with Polo.”
The connection was extremely beneficial for Gates. She went on to create a jacket of her own with Polo and Team Revolution, which is still being sold in stores. Team Revolution also helped her put things into perspective. It was there that she recognized the extreme lack of participation from young adults in terms of giving back. Unsatisfied with the idea that teens and young adults were simply not interested, Syreeta Gates’ SWT or Service We Trust was born, in hopes that she could show young adults that community service is “cool.”
“Particularly in our community there are so many reference points to show that service is wack, so I wanted to show that you could be fresh and you could be fly while doing community service.” Gates was just 19 years old when she created Service We Trust, but she determined that if you take things like music, art, fashion, dance and other things that are of interest to young adults, and you tie them into community service, than young adults will be more likely to gravitate towards service and giving back.
How Gates Started SWT
Starting Service We Trust wasn’t much of an obstacle for Syreeta Gates. Since she was a child she had an entrepreneurial spirit, in the fourth grade she was selling popcorn, in fifth grade she was selling bookmarks, and by high school, she was selling 2-way pagers and clothes. SWT was just a combination of all her interests in one project.
Shortly after establishing herself, Syreeta Gates’ SWT embarked on its debut project, an “I Love My Life” campaign. Gates partnered with Life Camp, Inc. also based in Jamaica, Queens, to create a campaign in response to the increasing number of young adult deaths particularly taking place in South Jamaica, Queens. They created a high school tour where they would go into classrooms and talk about the importance of loving life in an effort to stop the violence. The campaign proved to be quite successful.
Since that original campaign, Syreeta Gates’ SWT has been involved in many campaigns and events including, the Thanks For Giving Clothing Drive, Bowling For Blankets Bowling Event, and the Food for Thought Food Drive among others. Altogether the SWT events have impacted hundreds of young adults throughout the city.
While she enjoys giving back in every way, Gates’ favorite kind of community service is creating murals. Gates has one of her murals painted on East 90th Street and Flatlands in Brooklyn.
“Doing murals gave me the opportunity to say I did that, with murals you get a chance to make history,” Gates explained.
Syreeta Gates’ Other Projects
Aside from Service We Trust, Gates is also spearheading the LEAD program with Team Revolution and Ministers of Culture with Project SAFE, two projects dedicated to helping those in need. She is also partnering with Project SAFE on a campaign to open a clinic for young adults.
The 21-year-old is plenty busy working on her many projects but she remains dedicated to the cause. “I know why I give back to my community,” Gates stresses, “Not only does it feel good, but it has to be done, so I think about it like if I don’t do it, who will fill the void? And who will do it with as much passion and emphasis as I would?”
In another couple of years, Gates hopes to continue to develop partnerships with organizations in an effort to do as many community service projects as possible. Gates hopes to bring in a team of young adults that will help bring SWT to the next level. On a personal level she looks forward to releasing several books among other personal goals.
Syreeta Gates’ advice to young adults:
Find out what you’re passionate about and make a living doing that. If you’re excellent with speaking, speak. If you’re excellent with writing, write. If you’re excellent with coming up with incredible ideas, do that. I think society tells us that we have to do other things, but if you do what you’re passionate about it’s a win-win.
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