Wilkinsburg youth raise their voices

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It took a while for the group of Wilkinsburg teens at the Weed and Seed Youth Speak Out forum to calm down and focus on the task in front of them, but once they did, representatives from the city and county heard their voices.

“We need more people to identify with the youth and how they can help us,” said Kymi Ewing. “The equipment in the recreation centers is not up to par so they want more equipment both indoor and outdoor. We want the Wilkinsburg school district to help so you won’t be bored after school.”

expectations
EXPECTATIONS—From left: Timiya Jackson and Kymi Ewing hold a chart of expectations from community youths.

The young people at the forum in St. Stephens Church called for more activities and recreation while at the same time asking to see improvements in their education. Many were also concerned with public safety and especially the all too frequent teen pregnancies in their community.

“Some of the things we were concerned about is some of the parks around here need some updated equipment,” said Timiya Jackson, an intern with the Department of Human Services, which served as one of the event’s partners. “With fall and winter coming up it would be awesome to have some kind of winter activity, maybe some kind of trip.”

Several local officials attended the forum, including Pa. Rep. Joe Preston, 24th district and Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman. Instead of spending time making presentations to the youth, they sat quietly to take in their feedback.

Since the meeting, the Wilkinsburg Weed and Seed Initiative’s next step will be to form a youth advisory council. Currently members of the initiative are working on outreach efforts through local churches and other community groups to ensure everyone who is interested has the opportunity to apply.

“We’re trying to pull together a youth council. The council would have an adult advisory team,” said Gail Mitchell Hall, Weed and Seed site coordinator. “(The youth) would determine the initiatives to benefit the local youth here and of course we, as the adults would come up with the resources to help them. They really needed some assistance; they really needed some help and some things to do. ”

The Weed and Seed Initiative has also already begun working with local groups to address some of the concerns voiced at the forum. They are already partnering with the Andy Warhol Museum to bring activities to Wilkinsburg.

“At our first community forum, (Wilkinsburg School District Superintendent Archie Perrin) said he would be opening the schools after usual hours so we’re working on getting some activities together for that,” Hall said. “We’re actually creating methods of recruitment. We’re trying to identify local organizations that serve youth.”

This was one of several Weed and Seed Initiative forums held to address the needs of specific groups in Wilkinsburg. The next meeting will be aimed at senior citizens living in the area.

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