ELIZABETH, NJ - One evening El-Amin Jumuah mapped out his strategy for building his fledgling fashion business, including financing it with the salary from his job. The next day he was laid off.

Four years later, Jumuah’s business, Passionate Rebel, is thriving and has been featured on News 12 New Jersey’s Spotlight Edition and various New York Fashion Week media platforms.

Jumuah served as the keynote speaker at the 2019 Annual Youth Conference hosted by Community Access Unlimited (CAU) that drew more than 100 at-risk youth from more than a dozen youth services programs from throughout the state. CAU is a Union County-based, statewide nonprofit that strives to integrate people with disabilities and at-risk youth into the general community through comprehensive supports.

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“The conference is designed to bring together youth from a number of programs, allow them to network and provide them with information and resources, thereby empowering them,” said Carla Hollinger, a curriculum specialist at CAU. “It’s a day of fun and education.”

Jumuah’s apparel is intended to create self-directed leaders who, with their independent passion, will enhance their creative skills and rebel against not following their passion, according to the Passionate Rebel website.

“Be a passionate rebel,” he told the youth. “Be someone who is dedicated to following your goals regardless of the obstacles. Be a dreamer. Understand dreams take you far but they depend on the time and effort you put into them.”

Jumuah said to be successful they first must define their own success. For example, a single mother might define success as caring for her children while a college student might define success as working his way through college and graduating. Success is not defined by money and material belongings, he said.

“You have to go out and learn for yourself,” he said. “And there’s no shame in struggling. That’s the way you get to where you want to be.”

Jumuah’s message resonated with the youth in attendance, including Romance Morrison, 21, a CAU member.

“He really got through to me about how he started his own business out of nothing,” Morrison said, adding that he has set his goals for success as going to college, getting a good job and starting a family. 

“I already achieved the first part of my goal,” he said. “I’m starting college in September.”

Casandra Jeffers, 22, also a CAU member, said Jumuah’s message of overcoming struggles helped her. She lost her family, lost her job and lived in many places before coming to CAU.

“My goal is to get into the art of make-up,” she said. “I practice every day and post videos on YouTube. But it’s hard to stay motivated. So his message about not getting down when you are struggling resonated with me.”

The conference also featured a number of workshops designed to help the attendees better manage their lives and improve their life skills, according to Hollinger. Examples included goal setting, healthy relationships and living within the system.

“The workshops are intended to prepare them for life going forward,” she said.

To learn more about CAU, visit www.caunj.org or follow the agency on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Community Access Unlimited

Community Access Unlimited (CAU), celebrating its 40th year in 2019, supports people with special needs in achieving real lives in the community. CAU provides support and gives voice to adults and youth who traditionally have little power in society. CAU helps people with housing, life skills, employment, money management, socialization, and civic activities. CAU also supports opportunities for advocacy through training in assertiveness, decision-making and civil rights. CAU currently serves more than 5,000 individuals and families, with the number served growing each year. For more information about CAU and its services, contact us by phone at 908.354.3040, online at www.caunj.org or by mail at 80 West Grand Street, Elizabeth, NJ 07202.

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