The mayor brought nonprofit organizations, city agencies, churches and business leaders to identify what services are being provided for youth and where there are service gaps. Seventeen organizations talked about their missions as 130 people listened. The summit was a step in developing a strategy to ensure that the needs of the city’s youth are met in the areas of healthcare, education, recreation and over-all character development. The work began with an ad hoc task force the mayor put together and will continue based on information gleaned from participants at last Saturday’s summit.
“There are a lot of organizations providing services to our youth,” said Mayor William D. Euille. “Many of them have never talked to each other. We wanted to bring those organizations together to begin a real dialogue.”
The task force is not sponsored by the city or a result of any City Council action. “It’s a group of individuals that I brought together to discuss this issue,” Euille said.
THAT TASK FORCE has been meeting at Shiloh Baptist Church. “They were meeting in one of our conference rooms and one day I went into one of their meetings and challenged them to do something, not just talk about doing something,” said Rev. Lee A. Earl, the senior pastor at Shiloh. “They challenged me to develop a vision. The task force is not here to replace anybody; we are here to serve as a catalyst to bring people together to share information and talk about how we can work together.”
Saturday’s focus was on agencies that provide character development programs for the city’s youth. Strategies focused on the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Agencies are being asked to collaborate to influence the development of responsible civic character within the city’s youth.
One of the programs that were highlighted was The Untouchables. Norman Gardner is a senior at T.C. Williams High School and the president of that youth group. “It’s been great for me,” he said. “It provides tutors and mentors and gives boys male role models. The group can also help kids get jobs. I’ve been involved for about four or five years and it has been very helpful to me,” he said.
At the end of the three-hour conference, participants were asked to complete a survey. The surveys indicated that: the summit was beneficial; that there are missing pieces to the service puzzle; that more collaboration among agencies is needed and that all who were present are willing to continue the dialogue.
“We will meet in the next couple of weeks to plan the next step,” Euille said.