A group of young people from West Philadelphia is breaking down stereotypes and changing the face of Polo in a new Ralph Lauren ad campaign.
The kids are part of the Work to Ride program in Fairmount Park, which started in 1994, and is based out of the Chamounix Equestrian Center. The program gives underprivileged youth the opportunity to experience horsemanship and introduces communities of color to a predominantly white sport.
"I'm still kind of bowled over that they actually took the plunge," Work to Ride Executive Director Lezlie Hiner said about the fashion giant's decision to run an ad campaign featuring her program.
On any given year, Work to Ride serves around 60 youths between the ages of 7 and 19, Hiner said. Ralph Laurent's campaign is a reflection of the program's mission.
"Before I got introduced to Work to Ride, I was just another black kid hanging out and going to school and just getting by," Daymar Rosser, Work to Ride alum and campaign model, said.
Rosser was introduced to Work to Ride at just 5 years old when his three older brothers stumbled upon the Chamounix stables while walking around Fairmount Park, he said. Hiner offered to teach them to ride if they'd work there, and horseback riding soon became a family affair.
"Work to Ride has brought many opportunities for myself and my family, and we're so grateful for it," Rosser said. If it weren't for the program, he might not have been able to make his way through college, he added.
Work to Ride places an emphasis not only on horseback riding, but also on discipline and scholastic achievement. To participate, youths must be enrolled in school and submit their report cards.
To that end, Ralph Lauren donated $100,000 to Work to Ride. Half of that money will go to the program's college scholarship fund and the other half to helping build an indoor riding ring, Hiner said.
Rosser is giving back, as well.
Now a 24-year-old Roger Williams University graduate, he has gone back to where it all started and works as a barn manager helping the younger generation coming through the Work to Ride program.
He hopes that seeing people of color as the faces for such a prestigious brand, while simultaneously representing a predominantly white sport, will inspire young kids of color.
"I want then to believe they can achieve anything they want if they put their minds to it," Rosser said.