Youth United Way seeks solutions to gang activity, lack of activities for teensWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Saraya Perry, a junior at Start High School, is about to begin her second school year with Youth United Way.
The 16-year-old got involved when she was a student at Notre Dame because she needed community service hours. She also recognized the importance of helping others.
“I want to see more people my age get out and better the community,” she said.
Youth United Way was founded in July 2007 with the help of staff member Greg Braylock Jr., who is leaving the position to work as a United Way community impact specialist in education. Interviews for his replacement are ongoing.
“We pretty much started out on the radio; we posted information in libraries, walked down the street and passed out information. We had tables set up at conferences looking for teens who wanted to be involved,” Braylock said.
A community team was started in each of the Scott and Start communities.
“It wasn’t specifically those high schools; it was just in those communities,” Braylock said. “Some went to Scott High School, some went to St. Francis, Bowsher, same thing with the Start community.”
Each team surveyed the community and determined changes they wanted to see in their neighborhoods. The Scott team was most concerned with gang activity and failure of the Ohio Graduation Tests. The Start team thought there weren’t enough activities for teens.
“It doesn’t seem like youth have anywhere to go,” Perry said. “There’s the mall, but not all of us want to go to the mall every weekend.”
The findings were reported during a community event that included 100 community leaders. The teams will begin implementing their projects this year.
The Start team would like to organize a skate night at Ohio Skate. Part of the project includes working with staff at Ohio Skate to see if they are willing to partner with Youth United Way, Braylock said.
Scott’s team is in the process of creating a project to address gang and education issues by working with students from Robinson Middle School.
The teen ambassadors are also creating community projects to do with the Robinson students to help them understand the value of giving back, and the ability they have to give, advocate and volunteer to change what’s wrong in their community, he said.
“All young people want to make some type of difference in the community, and it’s up to us as adults to provide them an opportunity to take action and make a difference,” Braylock said.