It’s no secret that Roanoke Virginia has been experiencing a gun violence problem. West End Center for Youth, unfortunately, has been right at the center of the crisis.
A 180-day crime map shows that 11% of our city’s weapons related incidents have happened within 1 mile of West End Center for Youth. 47% of those incidents have taken place within a 2-mile radius.
These numbers are staggering; even more so when you take into consideration that the bulk of these violent incidents have involved teenagers and young adults. When these things happen, our center is impacted. Our kids and their families are impacted, and we recognize our responsibility in becoming part of the solution. As a center that works directly with youth, we are uniquely positioned to do the important work of crime prevention.
West End Center serves children from kindergarten all the way through twelfth grade. Our high school program, currently, is small. We are hoping to change that.
Our vision, for West End Center, is to create a high school program that young adults want to attend. One of the many ways in which we hope to be able to accomplish this is by paying for our teens to take Behind the Wheel.
In today’s world, having a driver’s license has become more of a necessity than a luxury. The ability to drive is essential to successfully working, earning an income, and escaping cycles of poverty. Obtaining a driver’s license, however, is not free and the costs associated are often a barrier for many of the individuals, who would benefit most, to having the ability to drive.
Far too often people make desperate decisions to drive without a license, which results in run-ins with the criminal justice system, and fines that keep the cycle of poverty going. Offering behind the wheel is an incentive that gives young people a reason to buy into our program, that gives them a safe place to go after school, and keeps them out of trouble while simultaneously equipping them with a valuable tool that will help them thrive in their post-graduation efforts to work or continue their educations.
Through this high school program, we hope to offer opportunities for our teens to network with local entrepreneurs. We want to help them gain experience that they can put on resumes, and we want to offer assistance with writing college essays if higher education is the route that they choose. We want to connect them with opportunities to learn a trade, and we want to do our part to see that kids who come through our program have the resources needed to break cycles and thrive into adulthood.
It is our vision to build relationships with high school guidance counselors and work individually with students in a way that the counselors’ workloads often don’t allow.
We want our center to be a place that provides individualized mentoring and helps each teen in our program, according to their very specific needs.
Our vision is ambitious, but attainable with the funding to make it happen.
This week, West End Center for Youth became one of seventeen non-profits to receive a mini-grant from Roanoke’s Gun violence Prevention Commission. This mini-grant is a small step toward making our vision a reality but to fully bring it into fruition, we are depending on people like you.
To stay up to date with West End Center news and all of the things that we have going on, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, and if you’d like to help bring us closer to making our high school program vision a reality, be sure to donate today.