Urban Youth Action stays alive

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As Rev. Cornell Jones and supporters rallied against the scheduled shut down of the Urban Youth Action outside its offices Oct. 31, there was still no indication that the board of directors would meet with him to discuss saving the program his late father founded in 1964.

But then, after three months of refusals, the board chair and vice chair met with the Jones family Nov. 17. Rev. Jones was elated.

CornellJones
REV. CORNELL JONES

“The Board of UYA has agreed to work with us, alumni and friends to bring UYA back better than ever. The meeting was a success,” he said. “Both the Board and the Family agreed that we must do whatever we can to save this powerful program for the youth.”

Reverend Jones joked that with his mother there, the meeting was a little tense for him because it reminded him of a parent-teacher conference from grade school.

“She came up from Tennessee with my sister, and my brother drove over from Washington, D.C., but we were prepared—that’s something we learned from the program, from my father” he said. “It’s personal to us. So now we’re preparing a plan and will present it to them for a vote within two weeks.”

Though the UYA office is closed, the entity and its 501(c)(3) designation as a tax-exempt nonprofit agency remain. The Jones’ plan would revive the program, but not quite from scratch.

“The programming would cease, but UYA would still be in existence,” said Rev. Jones. “We could re-launch soon, scaled back of course. This is what we prayed for.”

Founded in 1966 by the late Bernard H. Jones Sr., UYA was designed to help disadvantaged high school students from across Allegheny County better their lives through job readiness, educational support services, financial literacy and leadership development programs. Its mission was to prepare youth to be “work ready, life prepared and community minded.”

Known for its rigorous academic programs and philosophy of service to communities, UYA sought to create a safe haven for its students to excel in a caring and supportive environment. As such, it produced generations of engineers, pharmacists, political leaders, businessmen, writers and global entrepreneurs. And since news of the Jones family’s efforts to save the program have appeared in the New Pittsburgh Courier, an increasing number of alumni are calling to see how they can help.

“Alumni are calling to donate resources—one guy offered to get us furniture for staff and students, another has paper supplies to give us, so people definitely want to help,” said Rev. Jones. “Even our attorney, Rosalyn Guy-McCorkle, is an alumnus and a friend. She’ll be presenting our plan to the board. But we’re going to need everyone who was ever involved to help us. It’s not about the Jones family, it’s about the future. We love cheerleaders, but it’s time to get into the game.”

Reverend Jones said he is confident the board will approve the plan.

“They said they want to do what’s best for the kids,” he said. “That’s what we all want.”

For more information about helping to keep UYA going, contact Rev. Jones via email at iamuya@yahoo.com.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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