These Youth and Families are incredible!

Last Thursday at the Leadership Evansville (now Leadership Everyone) Celebration the Southside Stars Youth Zone won the Sam Featherstone Youth Award. We were so excited so many of our families were able to join us!

Cathy Davidson and myself had many people congratulating us, but the truth is this particular award belongs to many people. First and foremost this award belong to the youth and their families. The programming is built upon the passions, goals, and needs of each of our youth. Everything we bring in links back to them. With the mission to ensure each one of them are able to achieve their life and career goals, no exceptions, no excuses. We work to give them the right opportunities, acquire the right resources, and build the strongest support system possible for them. It is their hard work, dedication, and tenacity that moves them forward though.

We are blessed that our parents are deeply involved and very dedicated to this mission. We work with those who need help to try and create the best home-life possible so the youth can continue to focus on themselves. We work hard to connect them to the right resources and opportunities so they can achieve that. Sometimes that means housing, parenting classes, access to financial and food resources, and more.

The most incredible thing has been happening because of this approach. It was something we hoped for but did not expect to happen so quickly. The youth and their families have been bonding into their own mini community. They are working together to help each other, protect each other, support each other, learn together, and revitalize their community together. No words do the feeling justice to see this transformation. To me this symbolizes true, sustainable asset based community development.

This award also belong to all our Partners and Supporters who have made the SSYZ what it is. We don’t believe in recreating, we believe in true collaboration in order to provide these youth with the best. We work to identify local partners and individuals, who align with the needs and goals of our youth, to come in and do what they do best. This is a true symbiotic relationship. The organizations/ people get to stay focused on their mission/ passions, while our youth benefit from the variety of experiences/ opportunities that correlate with their personal visions. This not only creates the greatest support for these youth, but forms incredible partnerships and friendships among our community. So please give these wonderful people and organizations the applause they deserve. We wouldn’t be able to do this without you!

Evansville Parks Department, Tepe Park Neighborhood Association, EVPL (Evansville Library), Wesselman Woods, Purdue Extension/ 4H, Evansville Promise Zone, ECHO Housing, Vanderburg Health Department, Leadership Everyone, Hope of Evansville, Bill Bussing, Austin Maxheimer, Community One, Beth Folz, Anthem, St Vincent, Albion, Girl Scouts, Turn Table, DeAndre Wilson, Junior Achievement, The Literacy Center, Chris Metz, Marcia and Tom Ballard, Meredith Maulsby, Paige Hagan, Vectren Foundation, Bits and Bytes Computer Club, Tri-state Food Bank, Lynn Pease, Kirt Ethridge, Zackary Hoskins, Cyndee Landrum, Joann Hunter, and Axon Access. I am sure I have missed some in here and I deeply apologize but know your support means the world to us and these youth!

We would also like to give a special thank you to Leadership Everyone. Some of our youth have never experienced an event like this before. Many were very nervous in the beginning because of the amount of people and how dressed up many were. You truly made them feel welcome and they had a wonderful experience they will remember!

We can do great things for our neighbors, our community, and our city if we set aside preconceived ideas and competition. Together we can create the world we want to live in, one youth, one family, one neighborhood at a time!

Now just for fun, here is a quick video of the kids playing before the event started!

About the author: Lisa Barnett