How do you get a whole community to change? Violence has become a way of life for many people in Philadelphia, but some residents have decided this must end. Christopher McFadden Jr. is working hard to end the violence that is destroying his hometown. He created the Philadelphia Youth Project(PYP) to rally his community to work together. He wants people to wake up and show the youth that selling drugs and using violence are not their only options. At the time this book was published, the first community PYP event successfully took place with speakers and workshops.
What was your inspiration or what necessitated you to begin this adventure? I am Christopher McFadden Jr. I was born, raised, and still reside in Philadelphia, PA. In the summer of 2004 I attended West Chester University of PA and graduated with a BS in Philosophy in 2009. I then went on to attend the University of Phoenix in 2010 and graduated with my Master’s degree in Criminal Justice. Because of my appreciation and vigorous focus on my education, I was blind to the conditions in my community and the digression of the youth in Philadelphia.
When I say, I was blind to the conditions in my community and the digression of the youth in Philadelphia, I mean that I was oblivious to the youth (boys and girls ages 12 – 17) selling drugs, the constant senseless violence, the lack of love and respect for oneself and others, etc. A large number of youth in Philadelphia come from dysfunctional homes with minimal parental guidance. This lack of familial role models plays an important part in a young person’s development. Along with the lack of role models in the family, there is often a lack of any role models. Often, the influencers in the community are also the products of dysfunctional homes. In addition, one of the main problems in Philadelphia that affects the youth is the fact that there is a lack of community. Many neighbors lack a bond with the people who live in their neighborhoods, with little initiative to help them; consequently, the youth suffers.
From August 2010 to June 2012, I was a middle school Special Education Co-Teacher at YoungScholarsFrederickDouglassSchool, that which is located in North Philadelphia. My time being employed at that school and spending so much time in that community was an eye opener. It taught me to appreciate the youth even more than I did and that appreciation gave me the motivation for wanting change in my community. My current focus is community involvement; helping young men focus on academic and social progress. Currently, I am a mentor at OverbrookHigh School, that which is located in West Philadelphia. I mentor young men between ninth and twelfth grade. My mentoring includes social and academic after schools programs, those programs are MAN Up, Homework club, Reading Club, and Fitness Friday.
What steps did you take to create your event or program? Initially, this event (The Philadelphia Youth Project) was going to be a call to action / rally to bring the city of Philadelphia together and speak about the constant violence that is quickly sabotaging our communities. This was event was going to be held on the steps of The Philadelphia Museum of Art. There were going to be influential speakers, poets, rappers and singers at this event. Because of the lack of support, the event didn’t happen. Though this was extremely discouraging, my passion for helping my community progress gave me the drive to keep working to bring this event to life.
I started by changing the focus of my event. I decided that it would more important to focus specifically on the youth. Making the youth a priority is extremely important because they are the next generation and to them inspiration the progress and empower themselves and the people around them, will be a big step toward saving the community. With this in mind, I need to meet with like-minded individuals to assist me with turning this life changing idea into something concrete that will actually change lives. After a few meetings, The Philadelphia Youth Project was planned, then came time for the ground work of getting nonprofit organizations, schools, community organizations, and city officials involved.
At this event, The Philadelphia Youth Project (PYP), there will be poets and a panel of speakers who will emphasize the importance of non-violence and support the positive progression of the youth in Philadelphia. Along with the speakers and poets there will be interactive educational workshops to engage and educate the youth and community members. There will also be companies and organizations that are specifically geared toward supporting the Philadelphia youth. The youth themselves will have the opportunity to sign up with the organizations and/or speak with the companies about volunteer work.
What obstacles were you forced to overcome? In order to be successful, you must overcome obstacles. This is true no matter what endeavor you are pursuing. If you are working on a big goal, I guarantee you that there are going to be problems, issues, and roadblocks along the way. This is not negative, it is reality.
Because WestPhiladelphiaHigh School is a newly renovated high school, it was a great idea to host The Philadelphia Youth Project there as a way to promote the importance of education. However, I learned that it would be extremely difficult and expensive to host the event at a public school in Philadelphia. When I learned this, I began to get overwhelmed because I was wedded to WestPhiladelphiaHigh School as a venue, when I as planning my event. Fortunately, I was able to get in contact with an administrator at BirneyPreparatoryCharterAcademy, in Philadelphia, PA. After presenting my proposal for The Philadelphia Youth Project to the school’s administration, they gave me the approval to host the event at their school.
Who, if anyone, helped you succeed? Genuine individuals who shared the same passions as me!! I put my trust in quite a few people to help me put this event together but there are only two people that I would give major credit to for helping bring this event to light. The names of those two individuals are Takia McClendon and ShefonNachelle.
Do you have any advice for readers who want to get involved or start a similar program? If anyone would like to start a similar event, research is a must. It is important to know exactly what your goals are and who your target audience is. It is also important to collaborate with others that express similar interests. Collaborating is always good. If your goal is to change the world in the positive way and another group has that same goal, look into working with that group, because eighty hands working together is better than one or two. Collective works brings more people together, brings more ideas to the table, and more people will become aware of the goals that you are working to achieve.
This interview is from a book that includes 15 other amazing people who are creating positive change. You can read the full book and buy a copy for your school at Bookemon.com. Buy the e-book for 99 Cents on Amazon.com.