Community Highway Beautification

highway-projectEvery year my local chapter of the Black Community Leadership Alliance organizes a volunteer outing to beautify a stretch of highway that bisects my hometown as a part of a community beautification campaign that has been ongoing for almost 8 years now. In this post, I want to outline a few of the great positive effects that can be found in taking advantage of community-based campaigns like beautification efforts.

Getting Involved

One of the best effects that programs like this one have is that they get kids involved in community based outreach programs early on. Time and time again we see kids drift away from school, from their home lives, or from the community simply because no one is asking them to participate. It seems almost too simple of a solution, but it pays off in multiples. Studies show in marketing, politics, and countless other fields that if you ask someone to participate in a certain activity that they are much more likely to participate. Think about that. We could possibly be reaching hundreds more kids just by asking them to participate in community activities.

Meeting Community Leaders

Another aspect of community based volunteer programs that benefits kids is that it allows them to meet their community’s leaders. It puts them in touch with people that they might otherwise not really think of personally. For instance, many kids know about their mayor or their city councilmen, but seeing them in person and even working directly beside them can make a huge difference in the life of a struggling student. It personalizes these people, shows the kids that they are accessible and, yes, even the leaders are out doing hard work with everyone else. It gives the kids someone to look up to.

Gives Pride in Community

Another huge positive that campaigns like this instill in kids around the community is a pride in the place that they living. This point cannot be understated in my opinion. After all, it’s hard to take pride in where you live when it’s full of garbage or run down, but by participating in beautification efforts, you can not only show these kids that hard work yields some great rewards, you can also give them a reason to have pride in their newly beautified community.

Thinking Outside of the Box

Our community has chosen to pick up the stretch of highway near of town. Don’t think that this is the only beautification project that you and your group can do, however. We chose this project because it fits our community’s need and our location. We have a heavily trafficked road that divides the town that collects a lot of garbage; so cleaning it helps everyone in the community. When picking your own beautification project, you should decide on one that similarly fits the needs of your town. Perhaps you have a large artistic community and having community-wide mural contests would be more appropriate. Anything is possible; just be sure to keep your mind open for new ideas.

I hope that my yearly project inspires your and your community’s leaders to do the same in helping out the children in your town.

After-School Programs for Inner City Youth

handsGrowing up in the inner city is difficult for any child, but there are undue burdens that are placed on black youth and especially young black men. In many highly urban, inner city areas the pressure for young black men to begin gang activity can start as early as 12 and 13 years old. Many black children see this as their only way out from a system that has failed them, and choose to go down this route as the only means they have for providing for their families.

In this post, I want to talk about the important role that after-school youth programs can play in the development of young black men in keeping them off the streets and encouraging them to pursue an educational path for success.

As I said earlier, the pressure to get involved in gang activity can start at a very young age in many inner city areas. We see it start most frequently in children that are starting to gain more independence from their homes while also drifting away from school. It’s important to offer students who have become disenchanted by the school system not only encouragement to continue their studies but also alternatives that can help foster a student’s re-interest in school.

For instance, perhaps your child or a child that you are mentoring has an interest in music or art. While these two disciplines are not directly related to reading or science, they are both academic classes that will likely be taught at the student’s school. Many cities have after-school art and music programs that can work wonders in a child’s life by creating a new passion for learning. By focusing their attention on developing their artistic and musical skills, you can encourage your child to take any art or music classes that their school offers and they will quickly see school as something beneficial and not simply a chore. Many times students will be able to join marching band at their school and then go on to do the same in college.

Another common set of after-school programs is theatre programs. Inner cities have countless community theaters that are constantly looking for talent to participate in their productions. Actually, a lot of the time there are adequate funds for full-scale community productions but no actors willing to participate. This is another great venue that you can encourage your child to participate in, should he show any interest in such an activity. Theater is a great activity that can benefit your child greatly. It will expose them to a great art form as well as introduce them to a new group of friends all with similar interests to them.

Most of these options have to do with the child participating, but don’t fret you can help out too! These organizations and community-driven programs are always looking for volunteers and any help that you can lend would greatly help out these charitable groups in their efforts to keep kids safe and off the streets.