2012-08-31 / Community

Rockaway Youth Task Force Gives Everyone A Voice

By Ana Solares

Milan Taylor, left, spreading the word about the RYTF in a recent community outreach event Milan Taylor, left, spreading the word about the RYTF in a recent community outreach event A wise man once said that power is “the ability to have your will accomplished in spite of obstacles,” – without it, you are the one legged man in a butt kicking contest. For the Rockaway Youth Task Force, a group of youth looking to beat the odds and change their Rockaway community, cultivating power is at the top of their list. In just one year since its founding, the team is finding that organization and active goals are the road to this power.

Initiated by Milan R. Taylor, a political science and political dispute graduate of John Jay College, the team has more than 60 members. From their first rudimentary meetings in the Arverne library, according to Taylor, the group has grown not only in size, but also in its efforts to better the Rockaways.

“We’ve become more fine-tuned and effective. We know what works and what doesn’t work in the community and we’re building a better system to work it,” said Taylor. “Our members are really understanding what the issues are and we’re holding different meetings to make them aware of the community.”

One of the major focuses of the task force is ‘team building.’ The other is education; or the learning of issues in the community.

To foster teamwork and dialogue/communication among the youth, members are required to attend monthly meetings and youth retreats. It is there where the group brainstorms together and then begins planning events to carry out all ideas. The backbonze of the team also lies in Taylor’s constant encouraging of members to ‘go above and beyond’ and learn about the issues.

“Our members connect with elected officials and other important individuals by attending meetings held by the community, including community board meetings and their local precinct meetings,” said Taylor. In its one year of activism, the group has participated in beach and street cleanups, assisted with soup kitchens and other noteworthy causes, including open mic youth events and Stop and Frisk roundtables. The team has met with elected officials such as Phillip Goldfeder and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. For the team, every event presents them with the opportunity to make an impact, as well as mark their presence, within the community.

“A lot of people want and need to see change, but it’s a matter of doing it. RYTF is teaching them to express interest in whatever they want to see changed and then to implement that idea,” said Taylor. “We’re teaching them that they have a voice and that they can be taken seriously in the adult world. We’re giving them a platform to voice themselves out on.”

Having amassed many accomplishments, the Task Force is always looking to do more. In recent months, the team has undergone reconstruction; splitting up into three committees and forming a Facebook page to maintain flowing communication among members. The three committees that stand are the events committee, a finance committee, and a political events committee. Each committee has its own Facebook group and their assigned members are required to check and comment daily on all messages and upcoming events relating to their committee.

Another of the latest additions to the Task Force has been the creation of an adult advisory committee. The committee is currently being formed with members over 30 that will serve as mentors to the young adults. All this, according to Taylor, is being done in the name of efficiency.

“We want to make sure we keep the group moving,” he said.

The team currently has a lot of events planned, including an emergency preparedness event with Ready Rockaway and a spelling bee for the children of our community.

To finance their efforts, the Task Force has begun a fundraising campaign by posting flyers on their Facebook page urging members and non-members alike to please donate to the RYTF. In ten days, the team raised more than $514.

The RYTF is geared towards the grass roots community, however, members hope that their efforts will spark a helping spirit among other youth, a spirit that is proving to be successful.

“This organization is different, I feel, than any other youth group that’s been established before because it’s a group of youth run by the youth,” Taylor said. “What we’re doing is acting as a blueprint for other youth organizations to replicate what we’re doing, a blue print for success.”

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