By Nicholas Ibarra | OBSERVER Staff Writer

The Council of Elders Metro Sacramento on April 29 held its inaugural “Youth On Fire” banquet to recognize, encourage and support young, passionate visionaries promoting change and growth in the future of their community.

Twelve young leaders were honored for being pillars in their community:

  • Ray Green, 34, a program officer for the Sierra Health Foundation, where he works to eradicate health inequities;
  • Jadell Lee, 30, a dance choreographer who prepares dancers for the center stage of life;
  • Dr. Veronica Parker, 36, a doctor and adult education program coordinator who seeks the advancement of adult education; 
  • Chris Robinson, 38, a master strategist for education and marketing with a primary focus on youth development;
  • Jayda Irene, 25, an urban dance artist working to inspire Black children and adults while providing them with mental health tools and resources;
  • Chris Coon, 33, a poet working towards preserving the culture and legacy of spoken word;
  • Larriah Jackson, 18, a highly renowned singer who’s also a scholar at Howard University;
  • Ashley Faison, 34, an entrepreneur who works with youth on perfecting their resumés and providing professional coaching to help them land a job;
  • Christian Lozada, 15, a classical violinist and Pleasant Grove High School student working towards becoming a design engineer;
  • Jalen Tyré-Justice, 25, a professional dancer who inspires youth through movement;
  • Brooklyn Butler, 18, a mentor and community advocate through the My Brother’s Keeper program, where he is a senior advisor; 
  • Aalayah Lewis, 14, an aspiring entrepreneur working towards making a wave in the fashion industry to provide affordable life necessities such as undergarments;

“The purpose of the award banquet is to recognize young people putting in work and continuing the legacy of making Sacramento a better place to live,” said Greg King, elder of the Council of Elders Metro Sacramento. “It’s important to recognize those that are making a difference, so that they continue to do the work and inspire others to make change as well.”

The council’s mission is to increase unity, safety, productivity and abundance; provide leadership through guidance, advice and support; and in collaboration with teachers, administrators, community leaders and families, foster access to diverse learning and business opportunities in the community. It seeks to create harmony and healing while strengthening the village and bringing about actionable change through shared experiences, vision, focus, commitment and wisdom; and strives to support the richness, beauty, value and cultural relevance of our people and commit to preventing cultural extinction by honoring African American history and saving African American youth.


“We must learn to identify and redirect at-risk behaviors and be inspired to make actionable, positive change. This is accomplished through positive self-esteem, self-worth, and exuding respect for yourself and the community. We must also realize that our youth are our most valuable commodity and our only hope for the future.”