Group Empowers African American Youth To Be Leaders
They're stopping stereotypes by giving kids the skills they need to succeed.
In Lake Charles, LA, a group of young African American men are dressing up in full suits and bow ties on a regular basis. No, they're not going to the prom. They're setting a positive example for other young people in their community.
The men, who are in grades six through nine, have been chosen as leaders as part of a local organization called the Impact Agency.
The Impact Agency works with the youth to develop strong leadership skills. The Impact Agency/Facebook
Started in 2018, the Impact Agency works with the youth to, as they put it, help break the cycle of incarceration that has existed in their community for decades.
Through mentorship, tutoring and networking opportunities, the group focuses on building up young leaders who want to help impact positive change in their schools and neighborhoods.
The Impact Agency was started by a group of community members in Lake Charles, including Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier, who has been working hard to stop the pattern of young black men becoming involved in violent crimes.
"In order to address that increasing problem, we coordinated with the Lake Charles Police Department, sheriff's department, City of Lake Charles, parish office and Calcasieu Parish School Board and determined the necessity in starting a positive-change impact program," DeRosier told Fox News.
Impact Agency members presented different ideas for community service projects.The Impact Agency/Facebook
The young leaders are chosen by school principals and counselors based on their ability to lead, either positively or negatively – the idea is to pick the students who make the biggest impact. Then, they're mentored and guided by teachers and other impact-makers in the community to be the best leaders they can be.
"We actually created change agents through the youth of this area," said Ronald Blanchard, the Impact Agency's Curriculum Coordinator, who is in the National Teacher Hall of Fame.
"I've always believed in our children. If you invest in them, you're going to get a great return." -Ronald Blanchard
Members of the Impact Agency take part in various leadership-building programs and activities including media training, canvassing and coming up with community service projects. They volunteer at the local soup kitchen, tend to a community garden and attend round table discussions led by community leaders on topics like gun violence and vaping.
Here's a story about another group of African American men working to impact young people in their community: MAD DADS Keep Streets Safe Through Mentoring
In January, the group of change-makers invited young women to join the Impact Agency and be part of the movement to become positive leaders in their communities.
Braylon Harris, president of the Impact Agency, said they had planned to include women in the Impact Agency since the beginning.
Young women were invited to join the Impact Agency in January 2020. The Impact Agency/Facebook
"We do know there are also young women out there that also need that same assistance, Harris told KPLC-TV. "They may not have the urgency that is statistically proven, but any one boy or girl that needs the assistance to be able to display themselves at their full potential, that's someone we want to have an impact on in our community."
The young women take part in similar impact-building initiatives like networking and attending lectures with guest speakers.
"It may not always be meetings in house, but we will actually go places. So we will combine networking with people, mentors will be present," Edriena Alexander, the Impact Girls director, said. "We will spend an enormous amount of time sharing with them how to respect authority, how to approach people and introduce yourself."
Sounds like a new wave of leadership is on the rise in Lake Charles – all thanks to a community of caring people who are giving the youth a chance to shine.