Committing to Save the Youth of Community

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A line of young black men dressed in white linen file out on the high school auditorium stage to question their own image.

DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMEN OF THE SPOKEN WORD: We ask ourselves, who am I, to be brilliant...gorgeous...talented...fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

Who are you not to be? They call themselves the Distinguished Gentlemen of the Spoken Word, and their words speak to the confusion a young person feels in a culture where you get no support.

Lisa Bottoms of the Cleveland Foundation has spent the past two years heading an effort to change that --- to provide some structure and support from grade school through graduation. She says Northeast Ohio is rich with social service groups, but there is little coordination between them. She's helped craft a program that aims to stitch together a network of community agencies that will provide help with education, employment, parenting and healthy lifestyles.

LISA BOTTOMS: We know that on Saturday nights between six and twelve o'clock, that's when our crime rate flies through the roof. So, what are we as a community going to do about it? Well, they might decide, "I have a program where I'm not using my total number of hours during the week. Maybe I can shift some of my staff to the weekends between six and twelve.

The program is called "MyCom" --- combining the ideas of "My Commitment" and "My Community". The initial focus is on eight greater Cleveland neighborhoods --- six in the city and two in the suburbs.

Cuyahoga County has already committed 3.4 million dollars to MyCom. The City of Cleveland and several other funding agencies are also supporting the project. Lisa Bottoms anticipates it will take about three years for each of the eight neighborhoods to get their programs going. And then, the plan is to expand to other Northeast Ohio communities.

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