All Indiana

High schoolers speak out on ‘Young Voices of Black Indy’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Last year, the National Urban League created the “Indianapolis African American Quality of Life Initiative” to improve the lives of African Americans living within the city limits of Indianapolis.

The initiative received a $100 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.

WISH-TV’s All Indiana on Tuesday hosted a panel discussion entitled “Young Voices of Black Indy” that featured seven young Black high school students from Indianapolis. We asked them how they think the $100 million grant should be spent in the community.

Meet the panel

  • Sterling Smith, 16, incoming junior at Warren Central High School
  • Maryam Olaletan, 18, recent graduate of Ben Davis University High School
  • Darnell Perkins, 17, recent graduate of Pike High School
  • Emeri McCann, 18, recent graduate of Crispus Attucks High School
  • Chaikou Diallo, 17, incoming senior at Decatur Central High School
  • Rayzgene Sansbury, 18, recent graduate of North Central High School
  • Grace Moore, 18, recent graduate of Lawrence Central High School

“The Indianapolis African American Quality of Life Initiative is a place-based grant-making effort, ultimately,” said Indianapolis Urban League CEO and President Tony Mason. “And so funded by the Lily Endowment, $100 million-grant to the National Urban League, where by which we are going to establish priorities for funding.”

We asked the panelists how they would spend the money to address the needs of their community.

“I think it would be really great if we invested money for those who are wanting to pursue a post-secondary degree because I know there are a lot of adults out there don’t really know the way,” said Olaletan. “And I think it’s also going to be good if we really provided support for those who are in school.”

Olaletan said she was unsure how she would afford college during the admission process, so she would like to see students educated more on the process of finding affordable post-secondary education options, as well as an increase in school counselors.

“A lot of counselors do focus on scheduling or helping students prepare for college, but even more so it’s important that the mental health of the students in our schools is being addressed,” said Perkins.

Smith said some of the funding should be used to bring back the Black middle class with a focus on closing up food deserts and providing anchor stores to support the community.

“I think one thing we could definitely invest the money into is a recreational center for kids,” said Diallo. “I know there’s going to be some kids that going home after school may not be the best option for them…so making a place where kids can go after school to have free time, play basketball…tutoring sessions as well.”

“Within our communities there’s not that many centers or resources like that,” added McCann. “We could also have more programs centered towards students who don’t necessarily know what they want to do with their future.”

Moore also believes additional mental health resources are necessary for the community, especially when it comes to curbing violence throughout the community.

“Mental health plays a big role in a lot of things, and one of them being violence or teen violence,” said Moore. “We need more mental health resources and emotional training, just figuring out how to manage our emotions so we don’t end up going to violence as a last resort.”

Sansbury wants some of the money to focus on mentorship programs, specifically for young people who don’t have a stable nuclear family unit at home.

The panelists also discussed some of the challenges and disparities they face in their communities.

Click the video to watch the full special.

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