Neshoba Youth Coalition
I believe that your framework around health outcomes, and how those systems influence the health of local communities, align perfectly with NYC’s commitment to improve educational, health and economical opportunities for children and families in Mississippi by advancing racial equity and healing, leadership development and authentic community engagement that leads to positive and sustainable social change that improves the lives of vulnerable children and families.
The NYC Philosophy is based on the belief that youth and communities of color have the capacity to identify and address their own challenges and generate appropriate solutions when given the tools and safe space to do so. NYC’s Youth and Community Engagement Model utilizes a holistic approach to confront issues of difference with honest dialogue designed to engage Mississippi communities in cultural and economic diversities with the opportunities to learn the art of social justice, gain skills that lead to positive and sustainable change, as well as connecting with local and State agencies who share their vision for equity, fairness, and positive social change.
The NYC Youth and Community Engagement Model is uniquely different from other models. The NYC Model seeks to change individual mindsets and systems at a large scale in order to address root causes of problems with a long-term policy change perspective as opposed to a surface level change which only addresses symptoms. Because of the unique structure of the NYC Youth and Community Engagement Model, our direct impact is not limited by the linear relationship between invested resources and achieved impact. Our Model breaks away from the linear relationship and instead employs strategies based on scaling indirect impact which allows much further reach with limited amounts of resources by focusing on changing existing dynamics. Our Model actively influences our stakeholders to change their mindset of working alone and start collaborating openly as a coalition of many. Our model emphasizes a different style of leadership that ensures that vision and ownership are shared, transactional, continuously learning and adaptive. The model further emphasizes the importance of the interconnection in roles, relationships, norms, and needs to lower the risks of unintended consequences and increase the chances of finding powerful leverage points for intervention.
The Neshoba Youth Coalition was founded in October of 2010. The Youth Coalition was formed in response to the local school district’s high teen pregnancy rate in 2009. In 2009, Neshoba County had the 9th highest teen pregnancy rate in Mississippi, a State with the highest teen pregnancy rate in the Nation. The idea was to develop a program that would target the most at-risk youth in the district and empower those students with the knowledge and skills to make intelligent and informed decisions through a focus on local history, education, teen pregnancy, school dropouts and race relations.
Thirteen years later, the teen pregnancy rate for the at-risk group is the lowest in the County and the County has seen a 40% drop in overall teen pregnancy. Since 2009, more than 700 at-risk youth have participated in the NYC Leadership Program. None of those students have been lost to violent crime or have committed a violent crime. Before the on-set of Covid-19, NYC students, in partnership with the USDA Summer Feeding Program, were providing more than 14,000 meals per summer to at-risk youth in the community. NYC student leaders have mentored more than 2000 at-risk kindergarten to sixth grade youth in math, reading, reading comprehension and vocabulary skill building during the summer months.
The Neshoba Youth Coalition has partnered extensively with local organizations, businesses and governmental leaders to promote the health and safety of our community. In December of 2021, we partnered with the four local African American churches, Neshoba General Hospital and the Montgomery Institute to provide a Covid-19 Information and Lunch. The events were designed for individuals to come during their lunch hour and receive a meal, information about Covid-19, or get their Covid-19 vaccination or booster shot. The turnout was high, with more than 100 people attending the hour-long events. We also partner with our local community action agency to pick up and distribute food boxes to the elderly monthly. We work closely with our local elected officials to help keep families abreast of programs, decisions and opportunities that directly or indirectly affect the community. The city, county, school board and economic development leaders seek input from the NYC organization and its stakeholders before major decisions are made.
The level of impact that NYC seeks reaches beyond the familiar metrics of “youth or communities served” or “improved baseline scores”, but seeks to effectively engaging youth and communities to reframe the way the world works, and to identify the key role that youth and communities have in making this reframing a reality. In order for NYC to fully achieve the impact that we desire, we need access to a larger database of information, partnerships, and resources to better leverage local successes into State, National and International successes. I believe that using the HOPE database, and becoming a member of the Leveraging HOPE community peer group, will support NYC in leveraging its local impact into Statewide impact that will lead to exponentially higher levels of social impact in Mississippi and beyond.