Every child deserves to go to a great school.
That’s the message Colin Smith, the executive director of Change for Kids, wants to share.
The New York City-based organization, which partners with public schools through literacy, arts and health programs, has teamed up with eight deserving schools to help set students on the path to a brighter future.
“We’re working with the schools to bring in resources – arts and fitness are a big focus,” Smith, 34, tells PEOPLE. “We’re in eight schools now, but there are 501 low-income public elementary schools in N.Y.C. – we’ve got a lot we can do this year.”
Change for Kids, which started in 1994, has already made a difference in several kids’ lives. And there’s no better example than 11-year-old Leonard Moore of P.S. 81 in Brooklyn.
Moore was on hand last week to shine a light on the program during the Super Chefs Benefit in N.Y.C. in support of Change for Kids.
The smart, confident and (without a doubt!) mischievous elementary school student gave a powerful speech at the event.
“I feel lucky,” he told the room full of supporters. “[Change for Kids] made me excited to come to school and helped me grow as a student.”
He continued: “I’m a strong student and my teachers know I’m smart, but sometimes I struggle with my behavior – my problem is sometimes I have a big mouth. But now I’m known from my big imagination instead of my big mouth.”
The program has not only made Moore a better student, it’s helped him make goals for the future.
When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Moore tells PEOPLE: “A police officer. I want to be one of those real strong, confident cops. I want to help civilians, and one day, I want to be honored. I just want to be a special person.”
Because of programs on healthy eating, exercise and writing, Moore has been able to expand his skillsets.
“I’m working on my poetry now,” he says. “I want to write a book of poems. I try to make mine rhyme – like a little rap.”
And he’s already looking ahead to middle school, sharing that he wants to be on the honor roll and take new classes, like drama.
“My mom always called me a drama king!” he says.
His mother, Rwana Arrington, 40, says she’s definitely noticed a positive change in her son.
“I like that he’s pushing himself,” the single mother of two tells PEOPLE. “He’s been doing great.”
As for his impressive speech earlier in the evening, she says: “It was great to see him up there. He’s a special kid. I’m very proud of him.”
Even more importantly, Moore is proud of himself. And he has a few words of wisdom for the incoming students of P.S. 81.
“I would tell them to do the best they can, never give up, eat healthy and exercise a little more – get some muscles,” he says while flexing his arm. “And respect your elders and your teachers.”
Smart advice from an even smarter kid.