02/15/13 — Making a difference one youth at a time

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Making a difference one youth at a time

By John Joyce
Published in News on February 15, 2013 1:46 PM

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YaSheeka Sutton, 26, speaks about the petition she and Mia Barnette are creating to motivate the community to get involved in making a different life for Goldsboro youths.

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Mia Barnette, 27, speaks about the petition she and YaSheeka Sutton are creating to motivate the community to get involved in making a different life for Goldsboro youths.

This isn't the Goldsboro they grew up in.

YaSheeka Sutton and Mia Barnette both say they no longer recognize the landscape of the city that helped raise them, a place they also say no longer offers any of the support structure that lent itself to their success.

"The Goldsboro that we used to know is coming to destruction. That's what a lot of people feel, a lot of people who have gone away to college, or started families and they're (now back) in Goldsboro. They want to make a change," Ms. Barnette said.

They have decided to do something about it.

Now, the creators of the "Petition for Establishing Fun Programs for Inner-city Youth," say it is starting to gain traction and they are finalizing plans to take it before the Goldsboro City Council.

The city, including both the government and the business community, are not doing enough to address the plight faced by the city's youths, the women said.

"I don't want to say they're pushing it under the rug, but they're not giving it the fuel that it needs," Ms. Barnette said.

The petition is an Internet-based document the authors of which say is intended to draw the city's attention to the violence in and around Goldsboro. It has been circulating on social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, for several months.

"The first step is increasing awareness, the second is increasing information," Ms. Sutton said.

The rise in young men shooting each other is startling, she said, not only because many of them go to the same high school that she and Ms. Barnette attended, but because they either know the victims or members of the victim's families.

"These are guys that, I know their sister or my mom knows their mom. Kids are getting killed sporadically, and every killing is hitting home," Ms. Sutton said.

And, she said, the young women in the community are as much at risk as the young men. Although they may not fall victim to the violence directly, they are victimized by the cycle of perpetual hardship faced by families that don't have those father figures.

They become single mothers who either lose their children's fathers to the cemetery or to jail, she said.

Friends, cousins, even their teachers are putting "Rest In Peace" messages on their Facebook pages, she said, and "there is a strain on my heart to act."

Ms. Barnette suggests tougher programs for some of the cities more troubled youths.

"I think something like a Scared Straight program might be effective," she said.

If the City Council isn't inspired to take action, Ms. Barnette said that it is going to lie in the hands of community members who are willing to do something, many of whom have programs going on but have not yet come together.

She said she doesn't believe the problem is strictly a "black issue," adding that everyone has a responsibility to empower youths. The obstacles she sees are cultural and generational, but not insurmountable.

The solution will come when communication begins between everyone from youths and adults to the "haves and have-nots."

"They're going to have speak their language. They are going to have to overcome their own barriers and find things that interest them to connect," Ms. Barnette said.

Both young women say they are committed to their hometown and both atttribute their own success to their mothers.

Ms. Barnette said her mother, a University of North Carolina Law School graduate, is more of the proactive type who has had success here in Goldsboro as a playwright and event organizer.

"She's had plays, a number of African-American plays, one at the Paramount Theatre and one at the Dillard Alumni Building at Wayne Community College," Ms. Barnette said.

Ms. Sutton said that when she was growing up, the difference for her was that her mother instituted structure in the home, something she was conscious of at an early age and picked for her own life path.

Her mother worked, but had rules and regulations for her children to follow. And, Ms. Sutton said, there were programs back then that simply aren't available to kids today.

"I was in something all the time, whether it was a step team, whether it was 4-H, or if it was African dance or if it was participating in the youth choir at Fairview at the resource center. Vans were coming to pick us up from school taking us over to the Y(MCA). Don't see that anymore," she said.

And that spirit and support are what they hope to bring back to Goldsboro, they say.

About the petitioners:

YaSheeka Sutton, 26, is a life coach, certified by the Life Coach Institute of California, and also a motivational speaker. She is the founder of GoElleNow.com, a site dedicated to empowering young women through education, support services and uplifting. She can be heard Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. as she hosts her own Internet-based radio show called Soul Essentials, live from Goldsboro and broadcast via satellite from Montreal, Canada. The website for the radio show is WMRadio.com. She studied at Winston-Salem University and Concordia University in Canada.

Mia Barnette, 27, is, foremost, a wife and mother of two. She has founded her own organization called Speak to the Heart, Inc., for which she is currently working on obtaining a non-profit designation. She is and independent public relations specialist and is working toward a career in government and public affairs. She earned her degree in Journalism from North Carolina A&T, and is currently working on her master's degree in public administration at Capella University.