This weekend’s violence in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood was, sadly, just another round of fury and bloodshed for the city. For a long time, people who are not directly involved in the confrontation have asked, both among themselves and on social media, what they can do to help or to improve the city.
Although this is usually heartfelt, positive dialogue, the reality is that there are professional and compassionate people in the city who are working every day to make a better present and future Milwaukee. Many of these groups focus on youth and help kids to find the support, respect and skills they need to make a positive impact on the city someday.
“It’s make it or break it time. Kids can do some crazy stuff or continue on a path of success. We’re here to help them choose success,” Sarah Dollhausen told OnMilwaukee in a 2015 article “Breaking Down Racial Barriers: Hopeful Milwaukeeans Build A Better Brew City.”
Perhaps we don’t need to spend time trying to “figure out” what needs to be done, because these people already know. So let’s trust them and, most importantly, let’s give them what they need to strengthen and heal Milwaukee: sponsorship, support and money.
If you have been wondering what you can do to help the city, here are 12 groups that are making a favorable impact on Milwaukee’s future and could use your help. Feel free to add others.
Arts At Large – Since 2001, Arts At Large has engaged K-12 students in nationally-recognized programs that use the arts to enhance school communities and help students and teachers learn, change and grow. Programs revolve around civil rights, eco-literacy, peacemaking and creative arts.
Center For Youth Engagement – In 2012, Reggie Moore founded the Center For Youth Engagement, which serves as an intermediary to guide, evaluate and organize dozens of organizations and social service agencies that serve the city’s at-risk youth.
The group specifically supports efforts to engage youth in community organizing, workforce development, service learning, civic engagement, violence prevention, youth-led social change, arts and technology, youth in government, substance abuse prevention, pre-college programs, restorative justice initiatives and more.
Express Yourself Milwaukee – This group immerses young people in the arts to find self-expression, uncover inner strength and deepen their connections. Participants are trained and mentored by local and nationally-recognized guest artists and participate in live performances. Since 2003, the group has expanded greatly, affecting the lives of more than 700 Milwaukee kids annually.
Public Allies Milwaukee – The mission of this group is to is to advance new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participation.
Public Allies serve in full-time paid positions at local nonprofit organizations where they create, improve and expand services with measurable results. Throughout its 22 years in Milwaukee, Public Allies has supported over 500 of Milwaukee’s diverse emerging leaders and partnered with hundreds of community organizations.
Running Rebels – 38 years ago, Victor Barnett started Running Rebels as a small basketball-focused program staffed by volunteers. Barnett saw the need for a positive, alternative outlet for central city youth that combines support with demonstrating that someone cares about their needs. Today, the organization employs more than 100 people who provide positive choices for youth facing the daily pressures of delinquency, drug abuse, truancy and teen pregnancy.
Summer of Peace – Fourteen years ago, Fidel Verdin and Tanya Byrd founded The Summer of Peace, a city-wide, one-day celebration of entertainment, art and community that’s also a youth rally recognizing young people doing good things in the city. Summer of Peace takes place every August in different county parks including Gordon Park, Kadish Park, Washington Park and most recently at the Martin Luther King Peace Place.
TRUE Skool – In 2004, Sarah Dollhausen started TRUE Skool, an organization that uses the urban arts to engage youth in social justice, community service and civic engagement.
TRUE Skool offers an after-school and summer Urban Arts Program along with other services such as workshops, community service projects, commissioned art / mural projects, dance performances and special events.
Urban Underground – This group’s mission is to provide youth with alternatives to violence, support for academic achievement and increased chances for higher education and employment instead of incarceration.
Kids who participate in Urban Underground design and implement projects that focus on the organization’s four core issues of juvenile justice, public safety, health and education. They meet weekly to work on their group projects and are also eligible for individual support with academics, applications and personal issues.
ViolenceFree Zone (VFZ) – This program, led by Andre Robinson and his team, works to increase peace and decrease conflict. It exists in 5 Milwaukee Public Schools. The program is run by Running Rebels and The Milwaukee Christian Center.
Approximately 60 Youth Advisors work in the schools as mediators, monitors and role models, and they provide mentoring and character coaching to more than a thousand students enrolled in the VFZ mentoring program.
Walnut Way’s “Growing Youth Leadership” – This program is a summer teen internship program that engages Lindsay Heights teens in urban agriculture education, leadership development and job training. Teens in the program grow a wide range of chemical-free vegetables and fruits in production gardens on Walnut Way’s environmental campus and at Alice’s Community Garden and sell their harvest at local farmer’s markets. For more information, contact Jeremy Davis: [email protected]
“We Got This” Milwaukee – This group started on 9th and Ring in Milwaukee’s central city with a crew of young boys cleaning up their neighborhood and learning about gardening. The program has continued to grow and each week during the summer young boys continue to show up at the intersection for cleanup and gardening where they are met by positive role models from the community.
YouthBuild –In YouthBuild programs low-income young people learn construction skills through building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in their neighborhoods and other community assets such as schools, playgrounds and community centers. In Milwaukee, YouthBuild is run by The Milwaukee Christian Center.