Ron Jupiter likes to joke that his No. 1 goal is to get kids in Killeen to ditch baggy, sagging pants.
Well, it’s mostly a joke.
From my conversation with him, it’s clear he uses the pet peeve as a sort of symbol for pitfalls that local young people — particular those who are at-risk or economically disadvantaged — can fall into.
Jupiter is the president of the nonprofit Songhai Bamboo Roots, a local group that provides cultural awareness programs for area youth.
The goal of the organization, Jupiter said, isn’t to chide children and teens, but to promote a positive identity for young people in Killeen.
“We want to change the way these young people look at themselves,” he said. “When they take pride in themselves, we can reverse a lot of the negative cycles they can get caught up in.”
I first met Jupiter at Killeen’s Moss Rose Community Center in December, to celebrate the first night of Kwanzaa.
His passion for his work with the organization was immediately apparent, as he excitedly talked about Songhai’s programs.
Those include weekly classes on African music, lessons in history and math, and even stilt-walking.
“They get excited when we talk about their culture and their history,” Jupiter said. “Young people need a holistic eduction, and learning more about their culture is a big part of that.”
Jupiter isn’t just eager to share that culture with Killeen’s African-American youth, but with everyone.
“We believe in sharing our culture,” Jupiter said. “Culture reflects diversity. We are learning about ourselves, and we are teaching others about ourselves.”
While Songhai is not the only organization with a mission to serve young people, what stood out to me most in my conversation with Jupiter was not only his energetic commitment to his work, but his ability to share and communicate that enthusiasm with others.
“There’s nothing like sharing with your community,” Jupiter said.