KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Whether it's card games, volleyball, chess or basketball, teenagers across the metro get a chance to choose what they want to do during Village Fyre teen night at the Linwood YMCA, a program hosted by the Village KC.
"We are here to make sure that our students have access to all types of opportunities regardless of barriers that they normally may cause them not to have those," Village KC Founder, Di'Anna Saffold said.
It's the reason why Saffold created the Village KC.
"As I was growing up, my parents were the Village," Saffold said. "I know that if it weren't for my personal village who have surrounded me and my children in my adulthood and even as a child, I wouldn't be where I am now."
Now, she's creating those experiences for today's teenagers.
However, creating that village isn't something that happens overnight.
"Last year, we weren't able to do any activities with kids in person," Saffold said. "So that kind of stopped us from doing what we wanted to do, but we were still able to pivot and serve some community initiatives."
The organization pivoted by providing art classes and workout routines online.
Throughout the pandemic, they dropped off lunches to students' doorsteps for those who were in need.
Recently, a youth advisory board was added. The board is a group of teenagers who help make decisions on what free programs and events the organization holds. Youth advisory board member, Reggie Locke Jr. says it' is important teenagers have a voice at the table.
"If we don't have a voice, it's not going to get better. If they never ask kids what they want to do, they're not going to want to come anymore, cause it's boring or it's not engaging," Locke Jr. said.
Locke said he enjoys it because there's always something to do.
"I can go volunteer, I can go play and do the events and I like how it's like a village. It's like people helping each other. I like to help," he said. "It's just good to have that extra support."
"The Village KC is really a good place for teenagers, pre-teens to really find friends," youth advisory board member, Amaya Morgan said. "It's just things you can do outside of school that's not just school people or just family. You can find new people to hang out with and new adults to trust."
Board member Kyra Brown said it's a positive place.
"It's a place you can go to if you need someone or you need something," Brown said.
Morgan mentioned with this organization, it's an opportunity to create more relationships they trust.
"You never know how people are at home like they might have problems with their parents, they might be living with their grandparents, they might have a parent who's at work 12 hours a day," Morgan said. "Coming to the village, you have trusted adults and you have friends, so you're around a really nice community."
"You see kids walking around all the time outside, don't know where they're going, just walking," Brown said. "I feel like this is a place where you can belong...you can stop walking and you can just be."
Just be, in a community that welcomes teenagers from all different walks of life.
"It's super important that our kids understand that the community loves them, invested in them, in their time, money and resources and that they have somebody outside of their immediate family that they can go to when they have problems," Saffold said.
The organization recently started its scholarship program, offering $1,000 scholarships to ten Kansas City high school seniors.
Their goal is to keep growing their programs and initiatives, in an effort to provide more opportunities for teens.
To learn more about its programs, check out the Village KC's website.
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