Jamai Robinson works seven days a week to bolster his community and pursue his professional goals. His volunteer work spans nearly two decades. He is a dedicated husband and father of three and mentor to many in his Newark, Delaware home and beyond.
“Gesu allowed me to start over. I went from potentially being in a local gang to going to a great middle and high school, which provided me the opportunity to go to college. Through God, my mom, my extended family and friends, and Gesu, I am now able to be a leader to my community. Gesu assisted in changing a negative legacy to a positive one for my children.”
While he attended Gesu only for middle school, the impact altered his life trajectory. In the early 90s, gangs dominated Robinson’s West Philadelphia neighborhood. Although he averted involvement, the threat of violence grew. After being attacked while walking home from school, his mother transferred him to Gesu.
The transition was challenging. He credits Gesu’s staff in his success. Then basketball coach, Mr. Brooks taught him basketball and life skills: “I built a lot of confidence. He told me to toughen up and be respectful in the game. That was like life. You have to push forward,” he says.
Principal Sr. Ellen Convey, IHM and receptionist and “Gesu mom” Ms. John, helped him mature. “Sr. Ellen put me in check. I appreciate that,” reflects Robinson. Gesu also offered him work cleaning classrooms. “That was a lesson, too,” he recalls. “Gesu gave me the opportunity to put in sweat equity.”
Gesu worked for Robinson. At graduation, he received the top academic award for a male student in every subject but one.
Today, he remains close with his coach and teammates, several of whom attended St. Joseph’s Prep. “Our brotherhood was formed at Gesu. The Prep enhanced it,” he states. The African-American Alumni Association (A4) & Mentor Program, co-founded by Gesu Music Teacher and Choir Director H.L. Ratliff, a Prep alumnus, provided guidance. “Mr. Ratliff was always available. He helped us adjust,” notes Robinson, who later returned to mentor. Robinson also recognizes Wadell Ridley, a member of A4 and President of Community Affairs at Saint Joseph’s University, who continues to be his mentor.
His Gesu foundation primed him to succeed at Temple. He completed his degree in four years, juggling three jobs and supporting his young son. Robinson slept four hours per day, in two-hour stints between jobs. On Sundays, he crammed in eight hours of rest.
“I always wanted to be that person who helps people who live in the neighborhood to own it.”
After college, Robinson launched a banking career. During 12 years at Wells Fargo, he managed customer relations and million dollar investment services.
Robinson channels his business acumen to strengthen community development, a concept he observed at Gesu. His real estate portfolio covers his childhood neighborhood, where he teaches financial literacy to future homeowners. His newest venture? A North Philadelphia facility that supports adults with developmental disabilities.
“I want to help people through my experience. They can hear about positive experiences and create that.”
Giving back is Robinson’s legacy. At Seeds of Greatness Bible Church, he leads The Bridge, a program that helps youth transition to adulthood. He served as Board Vice President/Treasurer of In Her Shoes, a nonprofit that re-acclimates formerly incarcerated women into society.
Recently, Robinson fulfilled a lifelong dream: teaching business at Howard High School of Technology. We know that he will shape his students’ life trajectories, as Gesu did for him.
- St. Joseph’s Prep ’00
- Temple University ’04 B.A. in Business Administration Minor in Marketing
- Manager and Teacher Academy of Finance at Howard High School of Technology
- Assistant Vice President & Branch Manager Wells Fargo Financial
- Tri-State Chair Wells Fargo African American Leaders
- President Vision Consulting Services
(Left): Jamai Robinson ’96 receives the YMCA Volunteer of the Year 2017 award for the State of Delaware. As a board member, he helped streamline and fund operations across the state.