2015: The Year of Youth Development and Movement Building

As we begin the new year, it's important that we continue our exponential growth as the only youth-led organization on the peninsula. Since our founding in 2011, we have developed an efficient model to promote youth leadership in our community, while ensuring that community residents are given adequate access to necessary goods and services.

First, we are revamping our Leadership Course. A required precursor to membership, we launched our Leadership Course in October 2014. 18 young Rockaway residents between the ages of 15 and 25 took part in the comprehensive series that detailed the history of Rockaway, and the current socioeconomic policies which construct our community today. After feedback from these participants (who are now Junior Members) we decided to go back to the drawing board, and redesign the Course with more interactive activities in mind. This March, the next group of participants will partake in the more structured Leadership Course model, replete with handouts and other supplemental materials.

We are also entering the first rotation of Junior Membership. Our latest wave of membership will undergo the four month Stronger Schools curriculum. The curriculum will focus heavily on participatory budgeting, the democratic process which allows up to one million in taxpayer dollars to be spent on community improvements and upgrades. Junior Members will work extensively with young people within the Rockaway school system to ensure that funds are spent responsibly. The benefits of this process are numerous; young people will learn about PB, will connect with individuals and organizations both on and off the peninsula, and receive firsthand experience in civic engagement and community organizing.

2015 will also be the year that we complete our community garden and urban farm. We converted a half-acre vacant lot on Beach 58th street, into a functioning space where we host our summer and fall Youth Market in partnership with GrowNYC. This spring, community residents will have the opportunity to plant, grow and learn about nutrition and healthy eating. If you are interested in reserving a plot in our garden, please contact our Member Coordinator, Jazmine Outlaw for more details.

Finally, we can no longer ignore police community relations in relation to youth development. Following the increased attention and scrutiny surrounding police brutality, it's imperative that our community and police units work together to establish more productivity and safety within our neighborhoods. Such a situation requires immense coordination, and we will spend this year learning as much as we can about broken windows policing; a law enforcement mentality that many believe is the root of tension between community stakeholders and law enforcement.

This year, our focus will be on youth development and movement building. We will strengthen relationships with existing partners, and cultivate new ones. We will foster a sense of purpose and ownership amongst our members, while refining our recruitment strategies to ensure that we find the best and brightest Rockaway has to offer!

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