SOMERS, N.Y. – Instead of retiring, Norman Fulton will just work a little bit less.
After all, the Somers resident and Episcopal Church Deacon, 75, has been “living his bliss” since 2009 through his work with the Brieant Youth Alliance (BYA)—formerly the Charles L. Brieant Center.
“I will continue to stay there as long as I can to help the kids who are incarcerated,” he said.
Fulton works with teens incarcerated in a Westchester juvenile detention center, which he is not allowed to name. He teaches a class on leadership, conflict resolution and violence. For this, and all of the other work he has done as executive director of the Alliance from 2009 to 2013, and now as a board member, the BYA is set to honor Fulton at a gala this Thursday March 2, in White Plains, with its first annual Legacy Award.
“It means a lot and it makes me ever mindful that I’ve always been surrounded by good people, especially Judge Brieant,” he said.
The late Brieant, of Ossining, was a chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He loved children and he and Fulton spoke at length about what they could do, the Deacon recalled.
“His son, Charley—the current BYA president—told me that a couple of days before [Brieant] died, he told him that the center would be named after him, and how pleased he was to hear that,” Fulton said.
After his death, Fulton planned their first program around music within the Ossining School District.
“I started out with eight kids and it just built,” Fulton recalled, proud to say 2,400 kids now benefit from the BYA’s various programs.
Those include after-school programs within the Ossining school system in areas of leadership, career exploration, conflict resolution without violence, homework assistance, nutrition, peer mediation and arts and music.
An example is the Hudson Pride Program, a year-long expeditionary program about the importance of the Hudson River.
“They go hiking, they go camping, they go to West Point,” Fulton said. “That has been highly popular.”
However, the program closest to Fulton’s heart is the Youth at Risk Program, in which he counsels teens at the detention center.
“Sometimes it’s not as much teaching as it is just sitting around talking,” he said, in between endless anecdotes about his students that resemble a proud father raving about his children. “It took a little while, but I feel they trust me completely. They can say things, they can do things and they understand and work together.”
Hearing his students’ hardships during his seven years leading the class, Fulton was inspired to pen the book, “Yo God, What The Hell.” It compiles and incorporate those stories into each chapter, with both the students’ and Fulton’s ideas on how to reduce juvenile violence.
After the book’s release, Fulton had the idea to follow it up with a book about what happened to some of the more than 800 teens that have passed through this program.
“I’ve asked for permission to get 15-20 kids together from probation and ask, ‘how’d you guys make out? What happened to you after you left here? Did you turn out OK?’”
At its March 2 gala, the BYA will also honor the United Parcel Service for its employees' contributions during the past year, which have supported the not-for-profit organization’s many programs.
“UPS and Mr. Fulton have been invaluable assets to this organization who in the past year, have gone far beyond what was or could have been expected in contributing to the quality of life of the children that we have been able to touch with our programs,” said Diane Magri Fraser, BYA executive director.
Of the BYA, Fulton said, “I found the core of my being.”
Proceeds from the gala will benefit BYA programs.