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Bessie A. Winn-Afeku Headshot

Empowering Youth One 'Step' At a Time

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When it comes to saving our youth, one of the best ways our society can do this is by providing extracurricular activities for our children outside of the school environment. Extracurricular activities can be anything that takes place outside of the normal school hours and they could be structured toward some social mission or goal. These activities can include sports, youth development programs, volunteer work, church groups, etc. All teens are different, which means they have so many diverse interests. Because of this fact, there should be programs designed to satisfy these interests. Its been shown that young people who participate in extracurricular activities are less likely to use substances, drop out of school, and commit delinquent acts.

Allow me to introduce you to the Marching Wildcats of Kansas City, Missouri; an organization and drill team for the youth whose mission is to point children in a positive direction, as well as provide them with an alternative to the negativity seen in everyday life. It is their belief that if they provide our children with a safe, positive place to learn and grow, the possibility of these children becoming more effective leaders, decision makers and assets to their communities is more likely to take place. The Kansas City Marching Wildcats was founded in 2003 by "The Late" Tammy Wesley-Scott. In 2006, Jereaca Black took over the drill team to continue her legacy.

The Marching Wildcats drill team is focused on pointing children in a positive direction as well as providing the youth with an alternative to the negativity that they see everyday. It is their belief that if they provide children with a safe, positive place to learn and grow they will become more effective leaders, decision makers and assets to their communities. By supporting the youth and their creative abilities, this will make a difference in today's youth and in their communities.

Since its inception back in 2003, the Marching Wildcats have had zero teen pregnancies (while they were active with the drill team), a 100 percent graduate rate, while also taking credit for encouraging the majority of their graduates go on to higher institutions of learning. One of the Wildcats first members graduated second in her class in high school and is now attending Bethune-Cookman University in Florida.

So the question is, if extracurricular activities have such a profound effect on our youth, then why don't more of our children have access to these extracurricular activities? It's imperative that our children are not just limited to learning and getting their education from school, but from being involved in other activities as well. Just like the youth that are involved with the Marching Wildcats in Kansas City, young people that are involved in extra curricular activities walk away with leadership skills, awareness of community issues, and a duty to give back to the community, while also possessing an overwhelming sense of self confidence and pride.

"The School can not function apart from the community"