We had the good fortune of connecting with Calecia “CeCe” Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Calecia “CeCe”, what is the most important factor behind your success?
ITAV United Foundation started from simple beginnings.

In 2014 I lived in a small neighborhood with only few children for my children to play with. Being a homeschool family we outsourced many classes and activities for socialization. At the beginning of 2016 I began to pray and ask God to bring us healthy friendships. Friendships that are wholesome and close in proximity. One summer evening I went to the grocery store with my children. Upon returning home, our front yard basketball hoop had 16 boys outside playing. I quickly rushed inside to put the groceries up. I rushed back outside to introduce myself and my family. We played with them, told jokes and enjoyed popsicles. When it got dark, and kids started to go home I invited them to return the following Friday to do it all over again. After several week of fun Fridays, I had a moment of discernment. The community I have dreamed of supporting, I did not have to go searching for. The community was coming to my doorstep. I sat the boys down and asked them if they were interested in keeping this going if I offered dinner and some fun team building activates together. With excitement, they welcomed the idea. So, we set a schedule for every other Friday to come together. We started asking questions about their grades, their ideas, the places in their lives that felt challenging and offered support and encouragement. This felt amazing to give in this way!! Some kids brought friends and siblings and we quickly grew to an average of 20-25 kids. We stressed every other week but the boys kept returning every Friday. As I got to know the boys more, they began sharing more of their home life and daily challenges that were absolutely heart breaking. Some of those challenges they were too young to be concerned about like having enough food at home, being left at home often while parents were working, Single parent family challenges, lack of fitting clothing, and an array of emotional neglect challenges. I felt led to step up. We began to have group discussions of loving self-confidence, loving who you are, believing in yourself, and navigating life. Later I added simple life skills, reporting grades and once a month community service. Even did a few clothing swaps!
Overtime I became a little overwhelmed, as I was picking up several extra nursing shifts to cover the meals and expenses of the meeting for the boys. There was great need so I couldn’t give up. I made the choice to be there for them. I noticed that these boys had created a bond that carried over into their social/ school life and sports. They encouraged each other outside of our meetings, began to hold each other accountable, and stood up for each other. We built a village!
As on March 2021 we are a 501(c) Youth Mentorship Foundation with several programs for girls & boys. We aim to enrich Youth and Young Adults by providing programs with educational enrichment & resources, career & character development, leadership & lifeskills, community service & outreach. We have partnered with Tarrant County Food Bank and feed over 150 families in need each month.
We are growing and expanding with the help of our team and volunteers that support the vision to uplift our next generations. “It Truly Takes a Village, and WE Are the Village!”

What should our readers know about your business?
What sets us apart from others is the brotherhood and sisterhood that the youth are creating that is building lifetime bonds and a supportive community that has the potential to keep them connected. We cannot put a price tag on believing in yourself. It’s foundational for life in every stage. I am most proud of seeing youth and young adults working together, supporting each other, and showing a heart of servitude. There is nothing that compares the joy of seeing todays’ youth give back and think beyond themselves. I get excited when we have career days and the career speech sparks a strong interest to explore that career field and take on the internships with courage, The kids have so much potential. Having someone believe in you and push you goes a long way! Some of the youth are thriving and fighting for their “tomorrow” despite some very hard challenges. I am forever grateful for those that poured into me, so I pay it forward. I am also grateful for such open hearts from youth that have allowed me to be a part of their world!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The Dallas Fort Worth Area has so much to offer and so many things to do. It’s one of the many things that keep me planted. Places I would love to go with a friend on vacation would be some eateries. I love a good brunch spot!! We would start the day at a place like “Bottled in Bond” in Frisco area. The shrimp and grits are incomparable. For lunch or dinner, you can order ANYTHING on the menu at True Kitchen in Dallas or Spatch Kitchen in Addison and you will be pleased. Your tummy will thank you! At Spatch Kitchen the pastas and lobster are excellent. If you visit True Kitchen, I highly recommend the Chicken and waffles! If you are adventurous, you might like snorkeling with stingrays at Seaquest. There’s rock climbing and large slides for kids and adults at Bolder Adventure Park in Grand Prairie. Great Wolf lodge is always a fun hangout for a day of indoor water play with water slides and a lazy river. One of my favorite pastimes is horseback riding. DFW has so many options for horseback riding. There are several beautiful trails. The ICE Bar has ice slides and sculptures that are extremely cool. It looks really cool at night when the neon lights are added. There is definitely enough to keep us busy for a weeks’ vacation.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have been poured into by some extremely amazing people in my lifetime. My first Shoutout belongs to the one and only that has been with me through the good bad and the ugly… and that’s God. His unconditional love is never failing. Even when I am undeserving. He placed ITAV United on my heart as teen and he has opened doors and made things possible that I only imagined. I am thankful for my immediate family that inspires me to grow keep growing, is closest to me still loving me when I am standing tall and when I fall short, pushing me to be better daily. D4…this is dedicated to you! “Mr. T” thanks for letting the kids that are fatherless latch on to you. The next shoutout goes to my parents and grandparents. They too have loved unconditionally. They brought into this world a fiery young woman who enjoys helping others, standing up for the underdog, has will and drive that is relentless! One who has a big heart and Loves people!

Website: www.itavunitedfoundation.org

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/itavunitedfoundation

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089474233998

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=itav+united+foundation

Other: Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@itavunitedfoundation

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