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Kansas City nonprofit 'The Village KC' creates opportunities for underserved students

The Village KC
The Village KC
Posted at 5:30 AM, Jan 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-29 00:10:03-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A community organization founded in February 2020 is creating safe space for underserved teens in the Kansas City area.

"We're all here as teenagers. We're all going through changes and nobody's judging you," said Reggie Locke Jr., vice president of the Youth Advisory Board for The Village KC. "Nobody's making you feel like you don't belong, because this is a safe place and we're here to take care of you."

The Village KC was founded on the African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child," which says an entire community should be responsible for a child to grow up in a safe environment.

DiAnna Saffold, the founder and executive director of The Village KC, said she wanted to create a village similar to what she had as a child in her church and neighborhood.

She and other adults do this by creating positive programming and experiences for teens, focusing on black students in the greater Kansas City area.

They offer programs like art, photography, fitness and technical classes including hair and cosmetology.

Saffold said it's important to focus on art programs, because schools often cut or reduce those classes or clubs.

"For Black youth, I think it's important that we offer those opportunities so that they can continue to grow, learn, feel safe with expression and also feel validated in their feelings and emotions and the way they think," Saffold said.

The Village KC also puts on events like an annual gala and teen nights.

Chase Bluett — a sixth grade student at Raytown South Middle School — said those events are some of his favorite activities through The Village KC.

"Teen night — it really brings a lot of people that you wouldn't have known, so it's just really fun to meet those people," Bluett said.

Since 2020, the nonprofit has served more than 400 students with their five programs.

In the future, it hopes to expand the number of programs offered to meet the needs of more kids in Kansas City.

Their goal? Inspiring youth to become the change they want to see in the world.

"Making sure that they have other options than to just get into violence in the city," Locke Jr. said. "Here's other options, like The Village KC, where they can come have fun with people and get lifelong connections that they'll have for the rest of their live."

Another big goal is to purchase a building to house their programs. They hope to offer a gym, pool and community center for the Kansas City area.

For now, leaders pride themselves on bringing programs directly to students.

"We come to your school; we come to your local community center," Saffold said. "You don't have to go all the way out south or all the way north. We're right here in the center of the city, and that helps with the access issue that we have to a lot of these opportunities."

The Village KC has teens serve on their Youth Advisory Board to help make decisions about programming and give feedback on current classes. The teens help adults plan activities kids will enjoy.

"One of the most important things we can do as adults is to make sure that our youth have a voice," Saffold said.

Natalie Locke — a fifth grade student at University Academy — said all these programs offer students a sanctuary.

"It's for them to have a safe place to go if they want to get away from home or if they want to communicate with others and find new friends if it's hard to find them at their school," Locke said.

Bluett said getting to meet new people and learn new things gives him a chance to express himself and have a system of supportive peers and adults.

"I think it is really important to have a safe space, and not just to calm down, but to do other things as well," Bluett said. "Like play basketball, do sports, or do any other activities that you might want to in that safe space, so you can just blow off steam while being in a safe environment."

To learn how you can get involved with The Village KC or support their mission, visit its website.