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Thursday, September 19th, 2019

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Renaissance Youth Center – Connecting the Disconnected

by Gary Axelbank

July 12, 2018

With their upcoming summer-long Youth Connect Journey 2 Unity Tour of the five boroughs the Renaissance Youth Center on Third Avenue near 168th Street is providing positive alternatives to the gang activity and spike in violence that has recently riled the Bronx.

The innovative idea, according to Executive Director Bervin Harris, is to bring together teenagers who are doing things like robotics, fencing, music, production, dance, and stepping so that they have other options than basketball and soccer.  He believes there are youngsters who are not being served by current priorities.  While he’s grateful for DYCD funding, he says there are problems.

“We run duplicate services like basketball and soccer and ‘latch-key’ type of programming,” he said. “But what about the kid who’s not involved in any of those things? They’re not involved in school progamming, churches, synagogues, or community centers.  They’re not a bad kids, they could have an 85-90 average in school.  But they’re socially awkward and not exposed to anything.”

Those are the city kids who, he says, should be looking at the Youth Connect Journey 2 Unity Tour as a smart alternative to gangs and other non-productive activities.

“When we went to school we had everything, wood shop, electrical shop, home economics, pottery classes, you name it. We were exposed to it. You had things you could do to get involved.  Now they don’t have a variety of  after school sports and the parks they’re building are passive parks. Nothing to do but sit down.”

Youngsters from the Reniassance Youth Center chat with a member of the Morris HS Robotics team at this spring’s  FIRST® New York City Regional Competition & Expo. It’s part of the Renaissance effort to provide positive options. (photo Gary Axelbank)

This is the inaugural year for the Tour, but it won’t be the last.  Next year, Mr. Harris hopes to have a directory of youth activities so, “if someone wants fencing or diving, we can find the program or if it doesn’t exist we can make it exist.  We need to fund these things so these kids have options.”

To join or partner in the Youth Connect Journey 2 Unity Tour contact Mr. Harris at 718-450-3466 or mrharris@renaissanceyouth.org.

“We want to bring sbout some energy to say, ‘hey, get up out of your seat. Put your phone down.  Let’s have a conversation, there are some other teenagers doing some really good things.”







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