I became a part of the Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiatives Project (YIP) during my freshman year at Osborn Evergreen Academy in Detroit, Michigan. I was tired of seeing my peers affected by violence and drugs in my community. I wanted to make a difference and in some way, and change attitudes about violence. I heard about youth from YIP who did so much to help their peers. I saw some of them in action at a community forum. They actually enjoyed helping others and they had fun doing it.
As a YIP member, I became involved with leadership workshops for males at my school. I learned so much about personal responsibility, teambuilding, violence, and much more. I later enrolled into YIP’s Leadership Institute. I was so impressed by the Peer Educators who were involved in training me on how to become a community leader. We became familiar with multiculturalism, community organizing, public speaking, project planning and career development. We also participated in a fieldtrip to the Holocaust Museum in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Because of Neighborhood Service Organization’s help, I was able to get a summer job. I now know the importance of planning for my future and helping others.
I encourage everyone not to give up on youth. We need support. We need love. Most importantly, we need to learn how to trust, because so many adults have failed us. I am glad to be a part of the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. I have met a lot of adult allies, who encourage me to set goals in life. As a result, I know that I am a community leader, who can help others. I am honored to be a White House Youth Violence Prevention Champion of Change.
De Quan O’Neal is an advisory board member of Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiatives Project (YIP) and a sophomore at Osborn Evergreen Academy on Detroit’s east side.