The group works toward changing minds, actions and, ultimately, lives.
Group gives Valley youths a lift
YOUNGSTOWN —For a while, Nathan Cox couldn’t see much hope for his future, but now he’s flying high.
That is because he’s involved with the local organization Flying High.
Established in 1994, Flying High Inc. is a nonprofit community service organization that works to “reach” young people and to develop and enhance their skills, said Jeffrey Magada, founder and executive director.
Nathan, 17, admitted he wasted a lot of time running the streets with his friends, doing things he isn’t proud of.
“I had a negative attitude like a lot of kids,” he said. “I didn’t see any reason to try. I had an attitude like there’s nothing here in Youngstown, and this area doesn’t really have anything to offer.”
After running away and leaving the area for awhile, Nathan returned just in time to be introduced to Flying High. Representatives from the organization visited his high school and made a huge impact on him.
“They talked about change and opportunities and standing up and making that change, and I felt like that was a personal call to me,” he said.
Magada said: “We work with young people who have the most obstacles in life, those who need opportunities and hope. We want them to have hope and to realize they can be more than many of them thought they could be.”
He said some of the youth are children of ex-offenders and some have parents who are incarcerated. Some of the youths are ex-offenders.
“The first change has to be with them,” he said. “Changing minds, changing actions, changing lives, that’s what we’re working toward.”
Magada said Flying High works with local young people to show them they don’t have to leave the Youngstown area to make life work for them. Rather, they can build quality lives in their home city if that’s their desire and then use their talents to enrich the lives of others.
Nathan, who wants to be a graphic designer and photographer, was part of a group that created the artwork for a poster the organization displays at seminars and various activities. His work can now be used as part of his portfolio.
“We try to find what is right for each young person,” said Brenda Scott, project development director. “Where their talent or interests are, we start there and do what we can to run with that.”
For example, some of the youth participate in job shadowing. They also work on their computer skills, learning programs such as Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, which are needed in today’s job market. They work on writing effective r sum s.
“It’s about getting off the street and into something constructive and positive,” Nathan said.
With offices on Meridian Road, Flying High targets at-risk and disadvantaged youth between the ages of 5 and 25, focusing on those 12 and older, though no youth is turned away, staff members noted.
The organization offers several programs and activities throughout the week that are free to participants, Scott said.
“We work with the young people, listening to what they want and letting them tell us what they think will work for them,” she said. “We listen to their ideas and work with them to help bring those ideas and dreams and goals to reality. We want them to have a voice. No one makes anyone come or participate or be here,” she said. “They’re here because they want to be.”
The group has been steadily working on recruitment activities at area schools, such as the recent “Dancing For A Change” tour in May and the “Rise N Shoot” basketball program, that allow Flying High staff and volunteers to interact with area young people.
In 2006, Flying High was one of 100 organizations in the nation to be awarded funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Communities Empowering Youth Program.
The initiative evolved into the “Let Your Potential Soar Coalition,” which allows youth to showcase their skills and talents in art, dance, poetry, singing and other creative areas.
In November and January, youth leadership seminars in Youngstown and Warren attracted some 1,200 young people from the Mahoning Valley. Last summer area youths participated in a teen job fair, neighborhood revitalization projects and other community activities.
They’ve been involved in volunteer activities at the Salvation Army and Rescue Mission. This spring and summer, Nathan plans to be part of a crew that will clean several streets throughout the city and plant and maintain a community garden.
“One thing I’m realizing is there are opportunities out there,” Nathan said. “You just have to be willing to look for them and work to make them work for you.”