Southwest Detroit youth map out solutions

By Steve Palackdharry, Southwest Solutions

Through a new project called Community YouthMapping, about 50 youth are canvassing southwest Detroit to collect data about resources and services that could benefit all youth in the community.The project is directed by Southwest Solutions and is funded by The Skillman Foundation.

Working in teams, the youth seek to survey in person the businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, schools, churches and other offices in the 20 square-mile target area. The questionnaire is designed to produce a basic profile of the organization that is interviewed and to identify opportunities for youth to connect with the organization, through employment, internships, volunteer work, sponsorships, use of services, and other possibilities.

Youth mappers Agoberto Guerra, Kenny Rubbet and Emmanual Hagger interview Barbara Branch, executive assistant at Bridging Communities

All the survey information is entered into a database. Data Driven Detroit is helping to analyze the data.

“Community YouthMapping enables youth to learn about their community in great detail,” says Terry Whitfield, youth coordinator of the program. “By walking the neighborhood, and gathering and reviewing data, youth will not only see opportunities they didn’t know about, but will also learn about gaps in services. The next step is for them to ask: What can be done about this? In this way, they are empowered to become informed advocates for change.”

Breanna Alvarez, 18, is one of the youth mappers. She is a senior at Western International High School.

“Too many people believe that Detroit youth are bad, but there are those of us who want to make a positive difference,” Breanna says. “I hope that we can get more things for youth to do, especially jobs.”

In addition to canvassing organizations, the youth mappers are surveying other youth in southwest Detroit, and are also helping to update the commercial and industrial property database maintained by Data Driven Detroit.

The results of the entire effort will be presented at a ceremony on August 12 that will be attended by City, County and police officials, youth-serving organizations, program partners, families of participating youth, and others.

Youth in the program earn a $900 stipend for their 16 days of work. For many participating youth, it is the first job they have had.

“The program is all about skill-building and allowing youth to come to the table as respected voices and contributors,” says Helena Lazo, who directs the program. “They will come to understand that their voice is important and they must have a say in the way things should be in our community and city.”

Organizers hope this pilot Community YouthMapping initiative will become an ongoing summer program and will also eventually be implemented in other parts of the city.

Read an article in the Detroit News about the Community YouthMapping program.

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