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Leading the Way

September 20, 2013

LISC’s Summer Leadership Academy equips youth in West and Eastern North Philadelphia with skills to help transform their communities

Best1 “Understanding the power I have in my community and the power that I have as a young person helps me realize that the things that seem unattainable are attainable through my power,” said Quintessa Boone, a young leader in the Mantua community.

Throughout the summer, Boone and 29 other Philadelphia youth have been engaged in the Youth Summer Leadership Academy to develop and practice their skills as leaders and doers. The series of meaningful workshops, organized by Philadelphia LISC and  the University Community Collaborative at Temple University, challenged participants ranging from ages 14 to 24 to develop and implement a project together that would create real impact in both the SCI-Eastern North and SCI-West communities.

Boone’s crew of 15 in Mantua worked together to install new benches at three key transit stops, considering where seniors often stand waiting for the bus with no place to sit.

“We want to get the community involved,” said Joyce Bevins. “We are hoping that our efforts start a trend and that others will want to join the project.”

The program helped young people from all walks of life work in groups to share ideas, examine problems and develop solutions, providing their perspective on what can be done to further beautify their neighborhoods.

Empowering young people to be leaders in their community is an important priority to Philadelphia LISC’s Sustainable Communities Initiative. For starters, young people are impacted directly by community development – they face many opportunities or obstacles in their home neighborhoods. More than that, however, youth can be powerful agents of change.

Boone is an example of a young person impacting her community, inspiring her peers and promoting positive change. That potential could have easily gone unnoticed, as youth are regularly criminalized by media outlets and rarely offered opportunities to make a positive difference. But this summer, the LeadershipAcademy provided youth an opportunity to demonstrate their real potential as leaders and doers.

Although faced with adversity, the young leaders continued working together to make their plan a reality. “Many wrenches were thrown our way but sometimes you have to jump through hoops in order to get results,” said Boone.

Both sites hosted a closing celebration where family, friends and community members learned the impact of the program and the future plans the young leaders had for their community. Specifically in Eastern North, the young leaders hosted the event, highlighting their creativity and accomplishments over the course of the program. Each youth expressed how they gained more awareness of their own community and how they learned the power they have to uplift and change their community. “At first, we didn’t care about our community,” said Marchelle Rosario, participant of the EasternNorthLeadershipAcademy. “But in the end, we had the chance to be a part our community and what’s best for us is best for our community.”

During the six weeks of the LeadershipAcademy, the Eastern North leaders participated in art programs, learning how art can promote social change. As the leaders explored various art mediums like painting, mosaics and film, they learned how beautifying their community can dispel negativity.

“Our students were able to see what else is going on in their community and how they could be leaders of change,” said Ieshia Nelson, Eastern North Leadership Academy facilitator. “The participation in various art forms gave them a sense of empowerment and the urgency to take action.”

The Eastern North leaders beautified their neighborhood through a garden project for elders in their community. Youth leaders restored two elders’ gardens located on 5th and York Streets and 6th and Norris Streets by planting new flowers and plants and assembling decorative bird houses. The group also placed painted trash cans on the corner of 6th and Norris Streets in hopes others will want to keep the neighborhood clean and beautiful.

“We hope the rest of the community will see the revitalization taking place and will continue to make a difference with us,” said Rosario.

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