Causeway Challenge V: Youth Violence
The Causeway Challenge is all about empowering individuals to solve problems in their own communities. Since 2014, we have awarded $145,000 to grassroots leaders who have made Chattanooga more connected, pushed us to be a more inclusive city, shown us the power of play, and inspired more parents to get involved in their children’s education. As we prepared to launch our fifth Causeway Challenge, we asked you what the next question should be. The response was overwhelming; so many of you want an opportunity to do something about the violence affecting youth in your communities.
Causeway’s mission is to inspire and equip Chattanoogans to develop smarter solutions to our city’s toughest challenges, and this is certainly a tough challenge. From January to August of this year, there were 23 homicides and 86 shootings in Chattanooga, with many of them involving people under the age of 25 as both the victims and the aggressors. We know that this is a deeply systemic issue with strong roots in poverty, education, and access to opportunity. We also know that any solution to youth violence has to be consistent and long term, or it’s not a solution at all. With that in mind, we’ve taken some time to stretch the boundaries of our usual Challenge structure.
We are still giving out up to $3,000 each to 10 projects, but at every stage of the process we are going to be working closely with the local organizations that serve youth in our city every single day. We understand that no single organization, individual, or idea has the ability to completely solve this problem, so we are bringing many familiar faces, and some new ones to the table to focus on this important work together. These organizations will help identify gaps in services, opportunities for innovation, and a chance for the ideas that really work to keep growing after the Challenge process is over.
Meet the Winners!
Today’s Teens Transforming Tomorrow’s Teens
Project Leader: Paula Wilson Miler
Mentor: The Chattanooga Public Library
The Chattanooga Public Library has tons of programs and resources that can positively impact our teens, but creating a safe, respectful space can be a challenge. This series of interactive workshops will create a group of teen leaders at the library who feel a sense of pride and ownership there, who can then pass on their knowledge, acting as peer leaders for other teens.
The UNITY Project
Project Leader: Marcellus Barnes
The UNITY Project seeks to fill those crucial after-school hours when students typically find trouble because of boredom, working parents, and peer pressure. They realize that since many of our schools no longer have arts educators, students who are not interested in sports do not have an outlet to learn a skill and showcase their talents. The UNITY Project offers high quality voice and music lessons to underserved youth in Orchard Knob, Tyner, and Brainerd who would not otherwise get the chance to explore their talents.
Project Leaders: Melvin Derrick
Mentor: The Bethlehem Center
Melvin Derrick is a local teenager who wants to give Chattanooga’s youth a platform to share stories of their experiences, both positive and negative. With help from a few mentors, he will lead a group of fellow teens to create a social enterprise that brings awareness to the need for additional resources for youth programming. The group will create short, self-directed films featuring Chattanooga’s youth, called the “Success and Sorrow” series. They will design retail items, and develop a marketing plan to sell them, with all proceeds benefiting the youth organization of their choice.
Project Leaders: Jasmine Ware and Logan Taylor
Mentor: Northside Neighborhood House
Since growing up in Chattanooga’s Westside Projects, Jasmine Ware has had a passion for helping youth from similar backgrounds reach their fullest potential. She and her partner Logan Taylor developed You Matter: a 5-week program that helps teens tap into the confidence and perseverance that they need to choose bigger and better opportunities for themselves. The group will meet weekly to tell their personal stories, build relationships, and create a specific vision for each member’s future.
Young, Gifted and Black (YGB)
Project Leaders: Garrell Woods, LaTasha Bester, Brandon Davis
Young, Gifted & Black (YGB) creates artistic opportunities for talented, black youth, ages 14-25. Youth are given an opportunity to learn the foundations of acting, music and dance from qualified instructors. Together they design and produce a public performance. Through profit-sharing, youth performers are compensated, both to create a source of income, and to open their eyes to the possibility of a future where they can make money doing something positive. As they grow, YGB would like to have a full production company made for the youth, by the youth, that creates jobs by producing high-quality shows.
Break the Cycle - Love is Respect
Project Leaders: Chris Sands, Judith Anderson, and Ann Law
Through this workshop, teens at Olivet Baptist Church will learn to address date violence and date rape. Teens will discuss and learn responsible decision-making skills and healthy sex knowledge to better equip them to build positive relationships. These workshops will explore appropriate and inappropriate touch, sexual harassment, emotional vulnerability, and consent. They will also discuss and explore safe and fun date ideas for all stages of a relationship. They hope to empower teens to take responsibility for their emotions, safety, and well-being through fun and engaging experiences, so that they can openly communicate in romantic relationships as well as other relationships.
Making the Write Choices
Project Leader: Laura Brown
Mentor: On Point
Teenagers age 12-18 will collaborate to write and publish a book focused on violence and community action, from their own perspectives. They will be asked to write a series of “open letters” to various people in the past, present and future, like a lost family members, someone who has committed an act of violence, and their future self. The experience will teach them to express their emotions through a creative outlet, improve critical thinking and writing skills, and help them view themselves as leaders and change-agents by creating a sense of responsibility for the future generations.
Multicultural Tigers United / Los Tigres Unidos
Project Leader: Jon Johnson
In the last three years, Howard’s Hispanic population has grown from 6% to 37%. As the makeup of Howard changes there is more room for misunderstanding and divisiveness between students. Over half of the students at Howard High School are not involved in any extracurricular activities, and the research shows that the majority of teen violence happens in the hours just after school lets out in the afternoon. In an effort to fill that time with something positive, Howard’s Spanish, Culinary Arts, and Hospitality classes will create a student-led group that celebrates the growing diversity at Howard. Through surveying, students have shown an interest in planning after-school gatherings that celebrate diversity and culture with food, music, dance, games, and speakers.
N.E.E.D. Neighbors Engaged in Enhancement and Development
Project Leader: Carol Meredith
Mentor: Hope for the Inner City
Like many other youth organizations, Hope for the Inner City is providing lots of great programs for teens in East Chattanooga, but many miss out because they do not have transportation to get there. Carol Meredith wants to organize a network of reliable neighbors, that parents personally know and trust, for a ride-sharing program. Like a grassroots Uber, drivers would receive a small stipend in exchange for giving youth rides to community programs when parents are not available. If this works in East Chattanooga, it could be replicated in neighborhoods all over the city.
[Participants Will Name the Project]
Project Leader: Marvin Couch
Mentor: Youth and Family Development
Marvin Couch believes that there are many young people that are doing amazing things in the city of Chattanooga that are not being covered by the media. Through this project, he will teach local youth how to publish their own online magazine to showcase the positive achievements of youth in Chattanooga. They will learn concrete skills like interviewing, writing articles, photography, video production, and web design. Their personal motto is “making the positive outshine the negative”. Through sharing positive news, they will inspire local youth to strive to be recognized for something good.
We kicked off the application period with a Reverse Pitch at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. At this event, each of our partner organizations "pitched" the biggest obstacle they run into in their work to make communities safer for youth. All applications to the Causeway Challenge should be framed as solutions to one of the problems pitched. For example, one organization might say that their biggest obstacle is getting mentors to stick around for more than one year, so you apply to the Causeway Challenge with your idea for a new, creative mentor incentive program.