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June 12, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

This is only the beginning…by April Terrell

IMG_2782 - CopyHello my name is April Terrell from the bluff city known as Memphis, Tennessee and I am a DOJ VISTA serving with the Urban Youth Initiative under HandsOn Schools, and my area of service is the Frayser Youth Council and the Mayor’s Youth Social Media Team under Memphis Gun Down.

Boy, Boy, Boy does time go by fast. It feels just like yesterday that I met a special group of about fifteen 8th-12th graders in the Frayser community looking at me with wondering eyes as to what I could bring to the table. Since then we have grown into the Frayser Youth Council with 22 student volunteers servicing the under-served Frayser community youth through service learning projects, outreach, and community forums.

Who would have thought just 9 months ago that being a VISTA would be so rewarding. Earning the right to be heard by youth is not an easy task because there is an element of trust that has to be built. However, once that trust has been earned and you have their attention it’s up to you to be a beacon of light to them and make them feel that their voice is important as well.

Since I’ve earned the right to be heard we have led projects that provided in-need families with food and supplies, participated in GenerationOn’ s What Will You Bring to the Table? service project with the Frayser Youth Council’s “Packs with Snacks”, participated in youth panel discussions, and we have members that serve with the Mayor’s Youth Social Media team under the Memphis Gun Down initiative that aims at reducing youth gun violence. The social media team is special because young people are reaching other young people through social media outlets by promoting positive messages and letting them know to “put the gun down.”

I have seen so much growth in these young people in that they know their voice and their opinions matter and there are those that want to hear from them, because if you really want to know how to reduce youth violence, then talk to the youth. They are at a place now where they want more for themselves and their community, and this would not have been possible without the help and support from an excellent group of adults ranging from community residents, community organizations, and government officials that have made an effort to make these young people know that they’re important.

And that is why being a VISTA is so rewarding because those group of young people known as the Frayser Youth Council know that they have a voice and a place in this world. This is only the beginning!!!!

April Terrell
AmeriCorps VISTA
Urban Youth Initiative
http://www.uyimemphis.org

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