2020 will be remembered as the year that the world’s populations faced one of the most devastating pandemics in recent decades, but came out on top. The pain and losses […]
2020 will be remembered as the year that the world’s populations faced one of the most devastating pandemics in recent decades, but came out on top. The pain and losses will not be forgotten, but instead that energy will be channeled into love, kindness, and compassion in ways that are truly empowering. Uncertainties about jobs and access to health services weigh heavily on our minds and hearts, while many wonder what the “new normal” will look like once this pandemic subsides. Resilience of the human spirit has brought people together, with families hosting virtual gatherings; small businesses taking it upon themselves to make face masks and other PPE materials for frontline workers; and restaurants becoming temporary food pantries, preparing meals for low-income and homeless individuals.
This is the same resilience nonprofits are displaying as they deliver much needed resources to their clients by conducting training, workshops, and tutorials, ensuring that their doors remain open and in tune with community needs. With looming concerns such as the financial wellbeing and operations of their organizations, #GivingTuesdayNow could not have come at a more crucial time. For EYEJ and our #EMPOWER campaign, it means continuing to provide upwards of 1,500 youth across Cleveland with vital social and emotional learning tools and resources, which will reinforce critical thinking skills and foster new ideas for change. Our work leverages professional leaders to empower the pipeline of next generation social justice warriors through tools of fellowship, mentorship, and solution oriented discussions about topics impacting their personal lives and their communities as a whole.
In a city where 50.5% of children are living below the federal poverty line, our work is necessary. When 50% of our 7th and 8th graders in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are being recruited by gangs, our work is life changing. When studies show that 30% of Cuyahoga County teens experienced ‘depressive’ symptoms, our work is urgent. We live in times that are disconcerting to adults, so for the children of this city, those fears are compounded exponentially, jeopardizing access to summer jobs, living in safe neighborhoods, and overcoming social, cultural, and racial challenges.
#GivingTuesdayNow is more than a one-day ask of your financial contributions, it’s a time where we seek to build a community of stakeholders invested in the work of EYEJ and its ability to transform the lives of tomorrow’s leaders. Through our Discussion Series, we’ve been able to hold 1-hour sessions with 6th-12th graders in schools across Northeast Ohio about topics such as Exploring Power & Privilege, Education, Health, Money, and Community Relationships, Race & Justice. Moreover, the EYEJ Impact 25 Youth Council has fostered critical thinking about issues — policing urban communities, youth independence, and enhancing community relations — for participants 15-25 from all across school districts in Cleveland. Our successes are related to the private, public, and individual contributions made in support of direct service youth programming. Youth justice work isn’t something that entails a one time engagement, but rather months and years of cultivation, support and encouragement to break down the external factors which can potentially stifle the success of our participants. That’s why for #GivingTuesdayNow, we are asking you to consider making a financial contribution in support not only of our work today, but the long-term programming and services we pledge to offer youth as they face a myriad of challenges above and beyond the pandemic.
With the closure of schools in the state, EYEJ made the decision to take immediate action in support of youth through two vehicles: the Youth Online Discussing Justice (Y.O.D.J) Series and the All Star Reading Program. Y.O.D.J. is a 12 week online Discussion Series program (8 weeks) with a Reflection event (4 weeks) for 6-8th grade youth to exchange ideas and perspectives in an online classroom with diverse and empowered community members, peers, and volunteers twice weekly. With 93.2% of participants surveyed agreeing they learned something in the live Discussion Series, our virtual offering opens up this work to a new audience of youth. The All Star Reading Program will pick up where schools left off, providing youth with age-appropriate selections across genres, with reading sessions led by EYEJ Impact 25 Youth Council and EYEJ Discussion Series team readers. Reading such material as The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander and Malala My Story of Standing up for Girls’ Rights by Malala Yousafzai, participants will also have the opportunity to engage in post reading discussions and reflective activities to connect the materials to issues in their lives.
For EYEJ, #GivingTuesdayNow isn’t just about the pandemic at the present time, but how we as an organization can be more supportive and attentive to the long-term needs of Cleveland’s youth. That’s why when you make a contribution to the #EMPOWER campaign, you are not just supporting the planning and execution of our programs. You are investing in the lives of children in communities across this city. The EYEJ #EMPOWER campaign is about you sending a message that investing in tomorrow’s leaders is important. Investing in the #EMPOWER campaign, means you want to be a partner in this important social justice youth work supporting discussion series, reading programs, and youth councils. Making a donation this #GivingTuesdayNow means you hear the statistic that “40 percent of CMSD students are labeled “at-risk” of not graduating high school”, and you want to be part of the solution to that problem.
Finally, I leave you with this quote from former director of the Oakland Public Library Carmen Martinez, which captures the importance of EYEJs work: “The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them. … And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community.”