Created on Friday, 01 February 2013 10:27 Last Updated on Friday, 01 February 2013 10:28 Published on Friday, 01 February 2013 10:27 Written by Nikki Coffee Denton Hits: 936
SHARON DANIELS WITH REV. EILEEN SMITH
Having lost her son in 2001 in a shooting, Sharon Daniels knows all too well the pain of senseless youth violence. That same pain motivated her to do something. She knew that if given a choice, teens could be successful and could come together — with a little guidance.
“I was not afforded the luxury of turning my head to the problems our young people face today,” Daniels said. Through the Isaiah Project, Daniels nurtures teens in the south Pittsburgh neighborhoods. No stranger to the human services arena, Daniels also runs My Brother’s Keeper, a transitional living facility for adults who have an identifiable substance abuse problem and want to get help.
Daniels said she came up with the programs title because of the scripture at Isaiah 11:6, “The lion will lay down with the lamb and a mere child will lead them.”
“That touched me, because I believe that is going to be the answer,” she said. “Isaiah worked closely with the Lord and the Lord used him. He was one of the most powerful prophets. I believe children can be leaders and be the young men and women they were meant to be.”
TIP aims to help teens excel academically while providing vocational and social skills through hands-on learning. “Our kids are leaving high school as functioning illiterate,” Daniels said. “And their limitations are vast. They haven’t been exposed to proper learning, how to study and pull information out of the written word. This is one reason why our kids don’t do well on standardized testing.”
TIP’s objective is to teach students how to learn and start putting back some of the things missing in their lives. TIP’s teens learn to use their hands. “Everyone is not meant to be a doctor, but you can be very successful as a carpenter, after all Jesus was a carpenter,” Daniel reasons. After being in the program, TIP’s teens have achieved 4.0 GPAs in school; others have excelled in athletics and have been sought after by some of the nation’s best colleges and universities. In an effort to combat youth violence, TIP incorporates anger management programs.
Through hands-on experience, at the tutelage of area professionals in their respective fields, the teens learn carpentry, landscaping, electrical work, painting, and even plumbing skills. The teens apply these skills giving back to the community by helping elderly neighbors and fixing up their own neighborhoods, including the program’s location on Ashdale Street in Beltzhoover. According to Daniels, kids do better in a home-like setting versus a “center” environment. And they get paid. The teens earn $7.25 per hour for their on-the-job-training, money that oftentimes comes out of Daniels’ own pocket.
Daniels said that teens are now receiving felony charges for major crimes. TIP’s mission is to work very hard at preventing these young ones from eventually being clients at My Brothers Keeper. “If the Isaiah Project is successful, there won’t be a need for places like My Brother’s Keeper. That would be a great thing,” she said.
While the program teaches vocational and learning skills, it brings youth together who live in rival neighborhoods. This spring and summer the program will encourage positive peer pressure with the reasoning that if the teens can come together for a common goal at TIP, why can’t they be united and get along outside of TIP and spill this unity out into the community? They will partner with the Pittsburgh Bullets semi professional basketball team, in a stop the violence program. All south Pittsburgh youth groups will collate and play on one team, challenging the Bullets to a basketball game.
TIP teens visit courtrooms and the county morgue, as well as go on college tours. Daniels says she wants them to see where their choices can take them.
“I want them to see that if they choose college and make wise choices, their opportunities can be endless,” she said. And the proof is in the pudding. TIP graduates have gone on to college but have made sure to come back and mentor during their summer breaks.
The program also exposes participants to successful local people, like Cortez Allen, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and state representative, Ed Gainey. When Allen visited TIP, he told the students that he’d be watching them. Those words meant a lot to the students.
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