ORLANDO, Fla. – Giving back to urban youth and equipping them with the tools of success is not only a passion for two Orlando-based lawyers, but it’s also something they’ve vowed to do.
Benjamin Garcia and Erica Burns are licensed attorneys in Orlando by day and mentors and advocates for teen success by night.
The duo created a nonprofit called Life Beyond Adversity with the goal of exposing urban youth to more positive options, despite their past.
Their mission is to help urban youth facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning and equip them with the ability to make better life decisions to affect their daily choices.
“With (our) nonprofit, we try to get in front of these children as much as possible and show them different parts of life that they have never been exposed to," Burns said. “As humans, we should all have and honor our duty to give back to those less fortunate. I am just doing my part.”
They believe by introducing urban youth to more role models who evolved from similar adversities will allow them to see a path of success for themselves. With the lack of guidance in Orlando for at-risk youth, the attorneys say they are working to reduce juvenile crime, teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates.
“We want to help our urban youth reach professional success,” Garcia said. “Through professional success we are confident that the effect on urban youth in this manner will ultimately create a domino effect on other areas of their lives and those of people around them.”
The Life Beyond Adversity lead initiative is a shadowing program. The program consists of five professional workshops during which young people learn about the importance of dressing in a professional environment and they also get to shadow a professional for a day. Children ages 12-18 learn from professionals from diverse fields including law, medicine, sports, marketing, insurance, corrections, sales and more.
“The fact that I can inspire others to reach levels they never thought they could reach motivates me,” Garcia said. “Knowing that I will be blessed more when I help others motivates me. I love to see others winning and beating the odds.”
Burns and Garcia say their goal is to one day provide scholarships for all of the youth in their program. They also want to set up college tours to show them the importance of getting a college education.
“I feel centered in my spirit. In a country rooted in capitalism and vanity, being able to step away from the noise and give back is what feeds my soul,” Burns said. “Giving back is not only personally beneficial but I am able to create and implement change. You never know who you may touch in a single conversation.”
Burns is originally from Buffalo, New York. She received a Bachelor of Science in Advertising from Florida International University. She completed her Juris Doctorate from Florida State University College of Law, after completing one year at FAMU Law. She’s currently an equitable owner and partner of Purely Legal. Read more about her here.
Benjamin C. Garcia is originally from Orlando. He received a Bachelor of Arts Science in Criminal Justice at Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University. He earned his Juris Doctorate from FAMU College of Law in Orlando. He’s currently a practicing lawyer at Osborne & Francis Law Firm, PLLC in Orlando. Read more about him here.