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New nonprofit seeks to help at risk youth

New nonprofit seeks to help at risk youth
January 13
14:33 2021

There is a new organization in town seeking to help at-risk youth head in the right direction. Youth Collaborative Inc. (YCI) is hoping their method will be sustainable in keeping kids off the streets.

YCI is based out of the Winston Lake YMCA and their plan is to make a tangible difference in the lives of local youth.

“This is a program model entitled Project X, which is a gang-related curriculum that we use with our at-risk youth,” said Lloyd Leonard Jr., one of the YCI founders. “Our focus is on youth ages 14-20 and it deals with prevention and intervention.”  

According to their website, “Project X is an integrative program providing services to youth ages 14-20 (18-20 for juvenile justice involved youth only) who are at high risk of gang involvement. After conducting an assessment, youth receive services to improve problem behaviors through coaching from their outreach coordinator. Participants also work toward educational and employment goals, as well as involvement in pro-social activities. Services provided will target individual needs using the Comprehensive Gang Model.”

“We will definitely focus on kids from high-risk, gang-related areas, but we also focus on youth that are already in gangs in Forsyth County,” he said.  

Leonard connected with Terra Lataille and Kayla Steele to create YCI. He says they collectively have a mission to help the next generation and to help those who are often overlooked in the city.

We felt like we needed to focus on our backyard because the gang violence is really taking over,” Leonard said about why they chose to create the organization. “I think it has a lot to do with COVID and youth not having anything to do and they are also missing that family component and that is what gangs prey on.”

YCI was launched in late 2020. They are now accepting referrals for kids to join the program. Their target demographic is not limited to people of color, but instead is for all ethnic groups.

The organization has partnered with entities such as Winston-Salem State University, Wake Forest University, YMCA, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Forsyth County Court System and the Latino Community Organization. Leonard says mentoring will play a big role in the program.

“We will provide mentoring by college students for our kids,” he continued. “That will help with the kids to see that there is another world and that they don’t have to continue on the path of negativity.”

To have the opportunity to affect change in the community gives Leonard a sense of hope for the future of our youth.  

“It’s a phenomenal feeling knowing that we can give back to our community and also be able to educate our community that this problem does exist,” said Leonard.  

The goal for Leonard is for them to not have a need for his organization in the near future. He says that means that the gang problem in the city is eradicated.

“I think realistically there are some lives that can be saved and there will be others that will not be receptive to what we are trying to do,” he said.

Leonard is also the creator of the Hip Hop Flip Flopp, which is a slide targeted toward the hip-hop community. He came out with the footwear three years ago as a means to try and show positivity in hip-hop.

“There are certain lyrics that are just a big turn off for me and I am turned off by certain songs,” he said. “Hip Hop Flip Flopp is not just about the actual flip flop slide, but it is about bridging the gap and having our old school forefathers form a mentorship with the younger guys, because they have no direction whatsoever.

“Maybe this will be a product or brand that can possibly bring these two worlds together and maybe we can change the music industry. There will always be artists that appeal to the sex, the drugs and the crimes, but maybe we can create some change.”

For more information about Youth Collaborative Inc., please visit the website at www.youthcollaborative.org.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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