Osiris: Take a Chance, Change the World

Guest post by Robyn McCullough

Recently, Amicus staff had the pleasure of sitting down with Bill Roddy and his wife, Gail, of Osiris Organization to hear about the good work that they’re doing with young people in Hennepin County.  To say that the meeting was inspirational would be an understatement.  This couple is passionate about effecting positive change in their community and they are literally living out their passion through the operation of Osiris—a nonprofit agency they founded in 1997.  Since then, Osiris has been implementing change and helping young people to improve their lives through, amongst other things, mentoring and technology and entrepreneurial outreach programs.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmmoT16N83w&feature=player_embedded]“I never felt fulfilled professionally—I was making money, but not making a difference.”  -Bill Roddy

Bill was raised on the Westside of Chicago.  He came up under the guidance of his grandparents and his aunts—whom he affectionately referred to as the “law enforcers” of his upbringing.  Later in life, he came to realize that his aunts weren’t, in fact, enforcing any family “laws” but rather instilling powerful family values that he carries with him and abides by to this day.  Amongst these values, Bill’s family taught him self-reliance—he learned not to accept anything until it was earned.  Today, he is sharing this value and others with all of the young people who come to be involved with Osiris.

Gail and Bill began to hatch the idea for Osiris after they spent a year and a half volunteering at Hennepin County Home School (HCHS, a juvenile residential facility in Minnetonka, MN). They noticed a high rate of recidivism for the young people who came through the program and a corresponding need for after-care services and more support upon transition in order to ensure a successful reentry experience.  Of course, young people who find themselves in contact with the justice system have many basic needs that need to be met in order to begin an attempt at successful reentry; one of these is the need for a job, a way to make money, a means to become self-reliant—that same value that Bill’s family taught him so many years ago in Chicago.  With this in mind, Gail and Bill founded Osiris and began providing youth from the HCHS with a chance to get a job and begin earning money through the technology program.

Osiris’ technology program works in conjunction with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB).  After receiving thorough technology training, Osiris participants become employees at one of 27 computer centers located in MPRB’s public parks and during their shifts, provide technical support to the general public who utilize these free computer centers.  The experience acts as a “test run” for the real world experience of holding a job and every young person involved has the full support of Gail, Bill, and the rest of the Osiris staff as well as, and perhaps most importantly, graduates of the program.  This full-circle approach seems to be one of the most powerful aspects of the program.  The younger, newer participant has someone to look up to, learn from and relate to; the older, more seasoned mentor learns what it means to be a good leader and a positive role model as well as how rewarding this experience can be.

Gail and Bill took a chance when they founded Osiris; they quit their for-profit sector jobs and left behind all of the security that goes along with a corporate salary and benefits.  All of us on staff are so inspired by these two amazing people and their highly-impactful program.  As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world…” The Roddys and their Osiris are living proof of this statement; after nearly 14 years of operation, Osiris Organization is still going strong and impacting the lives of many young people through mentoring, technology and the influence of good old fashioned family values.  It’s safe to say that today Bill and Gail are making a difference—a big difference in the lives of young people and in their community at large.

Find out more about Osiris by visiting their website at www.osirisorganization.org