Photo by Paul Go

According to the American Community Survey conducted by the US Census Bureau there are 1,940,269 youths under the age of 18 years old living in New York City.[1] That is 24% of the city’s total population, and more than the populations of some cities across the country.

That is over 1 million young minds ready to tackle today’s problems.

That is over 1 million young hands ready to demonstrate their strength and ingenuity.

That is over 2 million eyes eager to explore the city they call home and discover where they can add their unique gifts.

And yet, many of these youths do not have access to basic necessities that many of us take for granted. 30.2% of children under the age of 18 live in households below the poverty level[2], and 39.4% live in households that receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Benefits.[3] Over 17,000 urban teenagers dropped out of high school during the 2010/2011 school year.

Although this may seem like a daunting problem, there are organizations dedicated to facing the challenge, one youth at a time. Here are some of the organizations that have inspired us:

01 | Urban Youth Alliance International
An indigenous, multicultural, cross denominational urban youth ministry dedicated to developing urban youth into leaders. They sponsor a number of programs, including Seekers, Bronx Connect, and SUCCESS. Seekers is a Christian fellowship that meets weekly for bible study, prayer, fellowship, and outreach. BronxConnect is a community-based alternative to incarceration program for court-involved youth. BronxConnect works with youth with open court cases who are facing incarceration unless a suitable community-based alternative can be found. By providing court advocacy, case management, mental health services, and other support services, BronxConnect has achieved a 75% success rate in preventing youth from returning to the system. SUCCESS is an afterschool tutoring and literacy initiative for youth in the South Bronx.

02 | 360 Skills Academy
360° Skills Academy is a not-for-profit organization specializing in youth and community development through basketball. 360° Skills Academy’s youth programs combine sports participation and instruction with education, career development and community service to promote the physical, intellectual and emotional development of New York City youth on and off the court.

03 | Urban Youth Collaborative
An organization that believes in the power of youth organizing. Led by students, the organization fights for education reform to bring social, economic, and racial justice to all

04 | America Scores
An organization whose mission is to inspire urban youth to lead healthy lives, be engaged students, and have the confidence and character to make a difference in the world. They achieve this mission through daily after school and summer programming which combines soccer, poetry and service-learning. America SCORES students, 85 percent of whom live below the poverty line, improve academically, increase physical fitness, and have a greater sense of confidence and belonging.

05 | Girls Inc. NYC
Girls Inc. delivers life-changing programs that inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold.

06 | Power Writers
Fosters literate, ethical and critically conscious young men and women who will be fully prepared to participate in our society. Young people who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it and change it as times change, are truly powerless, because they cannot imagine a future. This is particularly true for those teenagers who face the gravest challenges living in our nation’s most impoverished and dangerous communities.

Creating a community that nurtures the bright minds of NYC’s youth is less daunting because of the wonderful work organizations like these and many others. These children and teenagers are the city’s future, and it is our responsibility to ensure they have the tools and opportunities to create the future they want to build.

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Sources: [1] | [2] | [3]