Do youth care about social issues? Can they promote positive change in their community?
Roxbury Youth Program (RYP) participant Shakeen Stewart thinks they can. Stewart says, “I am a youth activist. I like to deal with government and the system. I thought people wouldn’t listen to me because I’m a youth. I have a lot to say. Now I know my voice is valuable, and because I live in the community what I say might be even more important than what a politician says.”
This year, Roxbury Youth Program has an exciting summer program for local youth called Community Youth Leaders. Through this program, teens will learn the basics of civic participation and participate in workshops to help them become leaders for positive change in their community. After receiving basic civics and grassroots organizing training, the youth will canvas their neighborhoods to identify issues that need to be addressed, organize a community forum to discuss the issues and plan a campaign. The summer program will culminate in a neighborhood fair, organized by the teens, for a community celebration, voter registration drive and discussion of community issues.
Last summer, after meeting state Rep. Gloria Fox during a field trip to the Statehouse, Stewart worked with city officials to renovate the basketball court in Jeep Jones Park, one of the neighborhood’s only year-round sources of recreation. The court was dilapidated with graffiti and tree roots sticking up through the concrete, and as there was only a half court, kids had to wait to play. The court was scheduled for renovation, and the petition of the RYP kids helped put the project on the front burner. Their input was sought for the design, and a second half court was put in at their suggestion.
The Community Youth Leaders program is funded by grants from The Hyams Foundation and The Roxbury Trust. Roxbury Youth Program is affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry which operates at historic First Church in Roxbury. The Ministry also runs Renewal House, an emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and their families, and United Souls, a men’s group providing fellowship and support for men from all different walks of life.
For more information about Roxbury Youth Program or the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry, please call 617-318-6010 or visit www.uuum.org.