By Amanda Amsel
In an attempt to listen to the young African America males of the local community, the city of Columbus is conducting several community forums.
One of those forums reached out to Westside residents and took place at West High School.
“The idea of these forums is to listen to the needs of black male youth in Columbus,” said Keisha Hunley-Jenkins, external affairs director of Mayor Coleman’s Office. “After listening to their needs, we will issue a report that makes recommendations on how we can better support their development.”
The idea for the forums and report is a result of a challenge placed upon Columbus by President Barack Obama. The initiative started by the president is called My Brother’s Keeper and encourages communities to implement a coherent cradle–to-college and career strategy for improving the lives of young men of color.
The challenge has six goals: ensure all children entering school are ready both physically, emotionally and mentally; ensure all children can read at a third grade level by the third grade; ensure all kids graduate high school; ensure all youth complete post-secondary education or training; ensure all youth are gainfully employed; and ensure all youth remain safe from violent crime.
During the forum the participants broke into groups and discussed the issues they are facing and the services they would like to see. The parents of the children met in a separate room and discussed the issues they face raising a youth of color.
“We are creating policies that will impact these youth, so we want to make sure their voices are heard,” Hunley-Jenkins said. “We want to make sure the things we implement will have an effect on them, so it only makes sense to get them involved in this process.”
While the Mayor’s Office could not guarantee all the children’s suggestions will be
implemented, they will keep them under consideration as they craft their policy suggestions.
During the forum, participants got a chance to present their proposals to the groups, as well as discuss the issues they regularly face. A lot of the kids said they distrust the police, would like to have more tutoring services and after school activities and are interested in study abroad programs and attending career fairs.
“These youth are the future workers of tomorrow, so we need to make sure they are prepared,” Hunley-Jenkins said. “Listening to their wants and concerns will also help us prioritize and better serve them.”
The MBK African American Male Youth Community Forums will continue to take place throughout the summer. The final two forums will take place on July 10 at South High School and July 25 at Walnut Ridge High School. The wrap up report and recommendations will be made available at the end of October.