BATON ROUGE, La. - On Nov. 6, the keys to 4385 Government Street were handed over to the leaders of four Baton Rouge youth organizations, Front Yard Bikes, Big Buddy Program, Humanities Amped, and Line4Line. These organizations have met since last year to transform the old church into a hub that will generate economic and social development opportunities for Baton Rouge youth.
The coalition’s purpose is to provide a vibrant shared space where Baton Rouge youth have access to a network of relationships and opportunities grounded in the worth and power of young people to realize themselves and transform their communities. According to Big Buddy Program Executive Director, Gaylynne Mack, “There are not enough places in this community where young people are the focus. Youth spaces are often shared with other services. If our community is going to survive economically, youth need to connect to opportunities and experiences that make them positive contributors to our economy. It is our responsibility as adults to invest in young people, who are not liabilities to this community, but rather, our greatest assets.”
An invitation-only ceremonial groundbreaking will take place on November 19, 2020 for the boards, staff, youth leaders, and invited supporters of the four organizations. An open house for the public will take place as part of White Light Night on November 20th at 6 pm. Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation provided the initial $250K in funding through an “Angels of Change Award” intended to support past BCBS honorees to collaborate on solving issues for Louisiana’s children. Dustin LaFont, of Front Yard Bikes, Gaylynne Mack of Big Buddy Program, Destiny Cooper of Humanities Amped, and O’Neil Curtis of Line4Line are Angel Award recipients. The Angels of Change award will support the renovation and development of the space, while Baton Rouge General and Baton Rouge Area Foundation provided additional funds to support the project start-up.
The coalition plans to provide a range of programming at the center to include:
- Front Yard Bike’s Mid City Bike Shop is a community-owned bike shop providing sales, repairs, and classes. They will also provide youth professional development courses, certification classes, and employ youth.
- Line4Line 's Barber & Beauty Shop is a full-service salon where youth receive hands-on training in barbering and beauty techniques, offer employment and haircuts. The Community Reading Room provides access to books and literacy support, STEAM rich summer, Saturday and afterschool programs with creative learning, hands-on making, and technical art/craft skills that are marketable.
- Big Buddy’s youth workforce experiences, skill development workshops, and supports for youth as they acquire industry-recognized certifications which lead to meaningful well-paid employment and success in future endeavors; and
- Humanities Amped’s afterschool studio, including peer-supported tutoring and healing circles, WordCrew spoken word poetry Fresh Heat open mics, youth civic engagement projects and conferences, Dreamkeepers college and career readiness, and an array of training for educators, youth workers, and peer leaders.
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