Monday, April 28, 2014

New Image Youth Center - Day of Giving Back 2014, North Highland

This is a long post but I urge you to finish reading until the end. This Saturday, I met someone who truly impacted my life: Shanta Barton-Stubbs of Orlando, FL. At age 21 while in college, Shanta was visiting her father, a minister at a church in the Parramore community of Orlando. During this trip, her life suddenly changed. She saw a few kids playing in the middle of the road with shopping carts, weaving in and out of traffic. After stopping them, they told her they had nothing else to do. So she brought them to the church and played Monopoly with them. The next day, Shanta's father called - the kids were back looking for their friend and New Image Youth Center was born.
With $1,500 in her bank account, the 21 year old college student started the New Image Youth Center. Shanta now helps mentor over 50 children a day in the Parramore Community. She went on to obtain her graduate degree in Mental Health but put her PHD dreams on hold to run the center. It came down to her doctorate degree vs. the children's future.
On Saturday, North Highland of Central Florida hosted a community day for New Image Youth Center as part of Day of Giving Back, a day where each of our offices give back to the community we live and work in. Prior to Saturday, we held a clothing drive for the community of Parramore. After encouraging our co-workers to clean out their closets, we hosted a community day - where kids were encouraged to come out and enjoy a beautiful day outside with us. There was a bounce house, a cookout, gardening, basketball, we even built and painted birdhouses with the kids. We also handed out clothing to the Parramore community.
In most recent studies, 73% of Parramores 2,000 children lived in poverty and 84 percent were in single parent households. 47% of Parramore adults had neither a high school diploma nor GED and the median household income was $13,613. Parramore had the City's highest rate of reported child abuse and neglect, a juvenile arrest rate 2½ times that of Orlando's citywide rate and a teen birth rate nearly six times the rate of the surrounding county.
Thanks to New Image Youth Center, their students graduating high school is at 100%. Six of whom have gone onto college. None of the kids who attend New Image Youth Center have been in the juvenile system and teenage pregnancy is down. They help in the community and have grown up to become amazing young adults.
During our time at New Image Youth Center, the North Highland team also did a bit of maintenance. From painting to mulching, we did whatever was needed to assist the center.
The bounce house was by far a big hit of the day!
Although we had an office of 35+ bring clothes for all ages, it was not enough. By the end of the day all of the clothing was gone with the exception of some winter gear. If you are in the city of Orlando, please think of donating your unwanted clothing directly to New Image Youth Center - I saw first hand our old clothing go into the hands of those desperately in need.
The Youth Center is a location which is a positive place for kids to go after school. Shanta helps students who face academic and life changes. Shanta is a licensed mental health counselor and after a day of seeing her clients, she heads to the center to assist the kids with personal and professional character building activities that are applicable in their daily lives.
Shanta has been recognized by the city of Orlando including the Bank of America Local hero award in 2007, the 2008 Magic Maker Award given by the NBAs Orlando Magic, and winning the national title of Ms Corporate America 2009. Shanta became the first African American women to win this title coveted title.
The kids even have their own community garden. We learned that some people in the neighborhood vandalize the garden at night. Sometimes taking the vegetables and sometimes destroying what the kids have grown. This broke my heart. I found my mother (pictured above in the middle) in the garden the entire 4 hours we were at New Image Youth Center (I did not get her green thumb). While at the center, we were able to temporarily fix a broken sprinkler to their garden, which someone broke the night before we got there. 
We had an unexpected visitor, Orlando's newly appointed Chief of Police John Mina. It was great for a local hero to make an unexpected visit to this amazing foundation.
How to Help! So here is where I need the voices from those all over the country. In a few short months, New Image Youth Center will be forced to move due to new landlords raising their rent by $1,000 a month. They have found a new location but are currently paying double rent (on top of the currently hiked rent). If you have ever been in Parramore, you know that New Image is one of the most up-kept and respected properties in the community, all thanks to Shanta and her team. The new location will need improvements and renovation. Click here to contact Shanta today!

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