How one woman’s dream became reality
Photo by: Alisande Caraballo
Born in Jamaica and migrating to Brooklyn, New York at age thirteen, Opal Warren had an early calling to help others. “I admit, when I first entered high school I wanted to be a nurse but my fear of needles and the sight of blood made me faint,” she laughs. But this did not deter her drive, fiercely independent, she was resolved to make it on her own. Warren attended night school in order to graduate early.
She then turned her attention towards teaching. “I have always wanted to help or be a service to others.” While attending Kingsborough Community College she volunteered at Harlem Hospital in a community outreach program for troubled teens. Having graduated, she attended York College as a Psychology major with a minor in Education to gain her bachelors degree in 1996.
Warren immediately began teaching in the New York public school system in Brooklyn for eight years. The experience left a lasting impression on her as she was able to connect with many children who simply fell through the cracks in the system. “Taking the time to listen to children is important.” So many of them are ignored or have parents too busy trying to make ends meet to give them quality time. My methodology is to look past their anger issues and establish trust. Once you have their trust, it gets easier.” Warren singlehandedly saved one student from self-destruction when all other faculty had given up on him. “I’m not gonna lie, it was a rough beginning, but in the end it was worth it.” Her troubled student later graduated elementary school as valedictorian.
To this day, they still keep in touch.
In 2005 she relocated to Florida and carried on her mission to help underprivileged children. She started a non-profit youth organization called Kiss Me with Spoken Words. In 2009 she began Our Village Summer Program with the desire to keep young children out of trouble and off the street.
Opal Warren’s reputation began to spread quickly. As an active participant in many of the community’s events and having garnered the support of a legion of parents it came as no surprise she was elected in 2011 as Director of the Central Florida Boys & Girls Club Poinciana Chapter.
Left to Right: Julienne Serrano and Opal Warren
Photo by: Ali Caraballo
“When I met Ms. Opal she welcomed me with open arms, I felt I had a sanctuary to retreat to since relocating to Florida. It was a difficult transition but I found comfort and a good start while with her,” recalls Boys & Girls Club member Julienne Serrano.
“Its through the outstanding and continuous support from the community of Poinciana that really makes our work here such a success. I have 157 members ages 12-18 and I consider them all my children,” says Warren. Her infectious smile and twinkle in her eye let’s us know she has much more in store for us in the years to come.