ROC for YOUTH!
The Community Center of St. John Baptist Church on Beach 74 and Rockaway Beach Blvd was filled to capacity. The community leaders inside were being peppered with tough questions by some of Rockaway’s brightest youngsters.
The young people fielding the serious rapid-fire questions belong to the Rockaway Organized Coalition for Youth (ROC for YOUTH!). The organization is commonly referred to as a youth "think tank", where Rockaway youth based organizations come to pool their resources, band together to reach political leaders in numbers that get attention, and share ideas for grant opportunities, all while formulating community based solutions to youth concerns.
At any given meeting you might have someone who is a member of the Explorers Club, the St. John Baptist Youth Group, the Rockaway Youth Leadership Counsel, or The Action Center for Education Youth Group, just to name a few, all rubbing shoulders and working together for a common goal or project under the auspices of ROC for YOUTH!.
"As the leader of a youth based organization, we realized that if we really wanted to make a difference in the Rockaways, we needed to make sure that all segments of the community were included in discussions, solutions and advocacy for youth initiatives. ROC for YOUTH! provides this," said, Aria Doe, Executive Director, the Action Center for Education and Community Development Inc., and co-founder ROC for YOUTH!
"It is a broad-based grassroots network of over 2,000 Rockaway residents affiliated with other community-based, faith-based, health based, or school based service organizations with youth based programs. While each organization keeps its own identity, when banded together for a ROC for Youth! Project, all the entities necessary to build a strong platform and insure positive results are a part of the mix."
An example of how the community benefits from the ROC for YOUTH! Coalition is the upcoming youth forum, which will take place at Beach Channel High School on August 16. Over fifty ROC for YOUTH! members have formed a core youth steering committee to plan a forum where youth can speak out on the issues that the students feel concern them most. Over 1,000 young Rockaway residents will address their issues before a panel of political, community, faith and school leadership. The students chose the topics, invited guests and forum structure themselves. As a build up to the forum, they are producing a tape documenting their efforts, and inviting political leaders to pre-forum sessions—to question, work-with and include them in their community activities.
"I love being a part of ROC for YOUTH!, What makes it unique is that it is for youth and by youth. What that means is we call the shots without having our ideas shot down. I’ve been able to ask my community leaders questions about things that concern me, and have fun planning and putting together activities. I’ve also met so many people from other groups that I would not have met without ROC for Youth!," says Ahoefa Tetvi (age 12), one of the ROC for YOUTH! members.
The August 16 forum runs from 4:00-5:30. At 5:45 ROC for YOUTH!, in partnership with The National Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council, will host "Show Time at the Rockaways", a super talent star search. Over 100 Rockaway youth will compete for the final ten spots of the competition and will be featured in numerous venues immediately after the forum. The National Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council has committed to giving the winners either a demo recording contract, walk-on role in a music video or film, FUBU and/or PHAT Farm clothing and much more.
Deacon Jimmy Stillwell, Director Samaritan Hands Center St. John Baptist Church, Co-founder ROC for YOUTH! stated, "The ROC for YOUTH! Coalition represents a vehicle to produce the best in our youth, and to identify future community leadership. Through our united efforts we motivate, cultivate and uplift our kids’ individual talents."
ROC for YOUTH! currently meets every Tuesday at 6:00pm in the St. John Baptist Community Center. Any youth or youth based organization interested in learning more should stop by a ROC for YOUTH! meeting.