‘Looking for young leaders’

Published 8:00 pm Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Suffolk chapter of the NAACP is starting a youth council, and it wants the city’s best and brightest young people to help serve.

“We’re asking for help from everyone,” said Tyron Riddick, vice president of the fledgling group. “What we’re planning on doing is to meet crime, education and the generational gap head on.”

The group, about 25 strong so far, is an effort to “change the dynamic of the youth in Suffolk,” said Charles Gates, president of Suffolk’s adult chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“We’re looking for others to join us in the fight,” Gates said, noting that children as young as 7 years old are on the streets in Suffolk. “They need guidance.”

The youth council will meet once a month to plan events that will further its goals, Gates said. The council also will participate in community events and help the members of the adult chapter stay connected to the younger generation.

“I’m supporting and helping it anyway I can,” said mother Paula Scott, whose 13-year-old son, Langston, is in the group. “We [the different generations] feed off each other. We have to be models to the youth.”

Langston said he enjoys being in the group because “you get to pass out stuff and still have fun,” referring to handing out literature at the events the group has done so far.

Gates said the problems the group is trying to combat — crime, lack of positive interaction among youth and so forth — transcend racial, age, economic and neighborhood barriers.

“Most of the problems are pretty much consistent across the board,” Gates said. “We need to reach out and touch people.”

The Y2K Academy has agreed to provide training for a mentoring program, Gates said. The young people also will participate in community events — they already have been to Afr-Am Fest and a 5K run at Norfolk State University, among other things.

They also held a youth summit in November to collect ideas from area young people about the type of programs needed in the area.

One issue raised was that many youth want to go to college, but do not think they can afford it — one specific area where the youth council can help. The young people will help raise money for scholarships given by the local NAACP chapter, and will help advertise scholarships given by the national organization.

“We want to get the word out that NAACP is not just civil rights,” Riddick said. “We put our money where our mouth is.”

Denise Dailey, treasurer of the youth council, said she is honored to be a part of the council.

“I feel honored I can represent Suffolk and be part of a movement,” Dailey said. “I think Suffolk has a lot of leaders. If we start breeding new leaders, we can take this to a whole other level.”

Youth interested in joining the youth council should call 218-2251.