Champions of Change Awards
Watch Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks from the Champions of Change awards ceremony, September 21, 2015. The Obama White House
Good Vibrations on WFSB
Building a bridge between the young people of Hartford Connecticut and the Police Department, Good Vibrations is a program that brings together two worlds that are often divided.
Photographer/Editor/Writer – Eric Budney
Good Vibrations: Winner of Obama White House “Champions of Change” Award
Police officers and youth awarded by the White House as “Champions of Change.”
Hartford Police Officer Hiram Otero and then seventh-grader Kayke Lopes, along with 12 others, were honored in September 2015 as part of the Obama White House’s “Champions of Change” program for their work in building trust and improving public safety in communities. The White House designed this award as a way to “feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.”
Officer Otero and Lopes both participated in Charter Oak Cultural Center’s “Good Vibrations” program, which paired Hartford youth with Hartford officers for a free 12-week music program in either rap/poetry or guitar. Officers and youth engage in facilitated dialogues about police-community interactions and while they make music together.
The following is excerpted from Obama White House Archives, September 22, 2015. Read the full article here.
I have been a Police Officer for approximately 12 years in Hartford, CT. Growing up, I was faced with many challenges, such as poor guidance from my educators and a lack of support from positive role models. Growing up in low-income housing, I have always felt as if I was a failure. Being raised by a single mother was challenging as we had limited resources. I was not raised by my father, which caused a void in my life, as I was not able to identify with a male figure.
As I was growing up I hoped for a mentor to help me with difficult decisions that I faced. There was no one to help me make the right choices in order to succeed. Due to the lack of resources in my community, I did not have the opportunity to connect with a mentor, which resulted in me dropping out of school. This was a choice that I regret most in my life. A few years later I took it upon myself to obtain my high school certificate, and later in my adulthood proceeded to further my education by earning a Bachelor’s Degree. Through my faith in God, and the hope that he instills in me, I believed that there was a “Champion” in me.
These past experiences are important to me to share with the youth. As a police officer, I carry many roles. One of the most important roles to me is being a mentor. In April 2015, I along with other colleagues participated in the Good Vibrations Pilot program that was organized by the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford and the Hartford Police Department. This program consists of mentoring local youth through the Arts by learning to play the guitar and expressing oneself through rap/poetry. As part of my task of mentoring the youth, they too were mentoring me as I was reliving my dream. During the course of this program, I learned that trust had to be earned by both the youth and me. At the start of the program, the youth were not very open. I was a stranger and wore a uniform that the youth were hesitant to trust. As the weeks went by and we got to know each other personally, barriers were torn down and the youth became very enthusiastic. I was truly honored to be part of the “Good Vibrations” program. I believe that my participation in the program will have a positive impact on these youth for the rest of their lives, as it has impacted mine. My belief is that there is a “Champion and a Mentor” in everyone.
Hiram Otero is a Community Service Officer-Faith Based Initiative in Hartford, Connecticut.
The New York Times
The Hartford Courant
The Hartford Courant Editorial
The Hartford Guardian