Newport News Public Library System
In 2005, the City of Newport News created a violence prevention network among 29 community organizations, agencies, and city departments to establish a community-wide effort to keep the children of Newport News safe and engaged in life-enhancing activities. The mission of this network is to develop and implement an array of strategies that help to create a violence-free environment for the children of our city, referred to as the “Keeping Our Kids Safe” initiative. The Wickham Avenue Alliance (WAA) was formed in 2007 in support of this initiative. Located in the Southeast community, which has a higher crime rate than other areas of the City, the WAA members know first-hand the challenges faced by our community youth.
The Pearl Bailey Library in the Newport News Public Library System, the C. Waldo Scott Center, the Doris Miller Recreation Center, the YWCA Virginia Peninsula, and the Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center, created the Wickham Avenue Alliance (WAA), which works together to provide an attractive, safe, strong and stable place where people are proud to live and thrive, especially for our youth. The Alliance brings youth and resources together to strengthen the community.
The WAA created the Youth Leadership Program in 2007 offering 20 community youth (middle and high school) a service learning experience at one of the WAA agencies. The selected youth received leadership and employment readiness training from skilled, youth development personnel. The Youth Leaders served as positive role models to their peers and were responsible for assisting staff with summer program activities during the eight-weeks of the program. They were required to provide a minimum of 12 volunteer hours per week for an eight week period. Youth Leaders received a weekly stipend of $25. At the Pearl Bailey Library the youth assisted staff with reading and craft programs and with the Summer Reading Program. During the summer of 2009, the Youth Leaders provided an accumulation of 2,600 volunteer hours. In addition to the Youth Leadership Program, the Alliance plans exciting, fun, and educational activities for young people from all the agencies to expose them to cultural events they would not otherwise enjoy.
The WAA obtained self-report survey evaluations from last year’s program participants to assess their satisfaction with the program experience and to determine how it has assisted them in their personal development. The evaluations were overwhelmingly positive. An outstanding example of how Youth Leaders become role models is Youth Leader Katherine Diaz who participated in the 2008 Wickham Avenue Alliance Youth Leadership Program and served as Vice President of Pearl Bailey Library’s Teen Advisory Committee in 2009. She then went on to be named the Mayor’s Youth Citizen of the Year in 2009. Her growth is an example of what youth can do given the opportunity. Several other youth participants reported that they were able to include this volunteer experience on employment applications to assist them in obtaining their first paid employment opportunity.