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FIU student active in aiding city's youth

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 PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2008 8:28 pm   
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FROM THE MIAMI HERALD
Posted on Sun, Jun. 01, 2008
FIU student active in aiding city's youth
BY PETER BAILEY
At a recent Miami Gardens City Council meeting, a tall, soft-spoken 20-something graced the lectern and spoke about the teens who loiter on the city's street corners.
But before he began, officials stumbled over his last name, so he clarified.

''It's A-G-B-E-Y-E-G-B-E,'' said 22-year-old Peter Agbeyegbe, a junior at Florida International University. ``I know it's a bit tricky.''

The attention brought to his Nigerian last name is surpassed only by the support Agbeyegbe has amassed for his vision for the city's youth.

For the past year, he's lobbied city officials to create a civic group for young adults geared toward engaging teens in the political process. At their May 14 meeting, council members unanimously agreed to give the group their blessing.

''It's necessary that we begin to nurture our youth for the survival of our city,'' said Vice-Mayor Barbara Watson, who endorsed the proposal. ``We're starting from the ground up by focusing on our future.''

Young adults between 15 and 25 make up 17 percent of the city's population of some 105,457.

More than a social club, Miami Gardens Progressive Young Adults is scheduled to be a forum for teens and young adults to organize around key political issues and function as a political action committee. Officials have outlined a plan for voter registration drives and a debate team. An advisory board of members between 18 and 30 will steer the group.

''The images you most often see of black youth are negative,'' Agbeyegbe said. ``The hardest challenge trying to change those images and getting our youth to focus.''

Agbeyegbe said he's ''terrified'' of the images he saw growing up in Liberty City and later Opa-locka of side streets lined by drug addicts and of school-yard knife fights.

He said he did other students' homework to avoid the brawls.

''Peter was an average student but an extremely hard worker who's always wanted to help others,'' said his mother, Cyrilia Agbeyegbe, who moved to Miami from Nigeria in 1982. ``I'm sure he'll go far.''

After graduating from Miami Norland High, Peter Agbeyegbe headed to FIU where a law internship eventually would set him on the legal path. His advisor suggested he read No Boundaries: A Cancer Surgeon's Odyssey by Dr. Lasalle D. Leffall.

''I got to see a black man grow up, break barriers and earn his respect,'' Agbeyegbe said.

Then Barack Obama's historic ascension as Democratic front-runner for the presidency drew Agbeyegbe to the political arena. He called the Illinois senator's regional offices to ask if he could organize grass-roots support for the candidate in Miami Gardens. He went door to door ``just like Obama.''

As he traversed the city, more people joined Agbeyegbe so he decided to form his political action committee.

Said Agbeyegbe: ``The youth of this city can accomplish great things if given the right opportunities.''


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