LIMA — To kick off an upcoming leadership series for students this next spring, the Youth for Change program is planning to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his example in leadership with a three-hour special event on King’s birthday.
HeartlandImage.org President Nick Kellis said the idea came from his experience teaching students about the civil rights leader in his role as artist-in-residence at the Heir Force Community School.
“I learned that this was an amazing man that changed our country and our world forever. So when Dr. (Vickie) Shurelds suggested we do a ‘Youth for Change’ movement, I said, you know, we need something to rally around. Let’s do something on Martin Luther King’s actual birthday, the 15th.”
In the coming weeks, Kellis said he’ll be engaging with schools and stakeholders to gauge who exactly will be taking part in the event. His goal is to create a community-wide celebration of King incorporating visual arts, spoken word, music and constructive dialogues.
The final production will then be broadcast live Jan. 15 from Veterans Memorial Civic Center’s Crouse Hall.
HFCS Director Dr. Willie Heggins III said he will be emceeing the MLK event.
“We’re here to talk about the human spirit, so to galvanize in an effort that celebrates the coming together and helping our young people to become stewards when it comes to issues of social justice, issues of equality. Those things are exciting.” Heggins said.
The MLK event, however, is just the tip of iceberg for next spring’s events. “Lima Celebrates MLK” will then lead into Youth for Change’s main schedule, which includes a series of student workshops meant to encourage artistic expression and create mentorship opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders.
“So the goal is to — starting in 2021 — do monthly summits where we bring students together via Zoom, because we have a lot of challenges, where they can be exposed monthly to mentorship, forms of expression and also leadership, and take action for real change,” Kellis said. “I think that our city has somewhat shut down. This is hopefully a way to bring the kids together and discuss real issues.”
Details on what those events will look like are still coming together, but students will be creating final “expression projects” to showcase what they’ve learned through the program to the wider community.
“As with most things, we want these initiatives to be not just rhetoric, but also to action. So we want to look at this whole notion of empowering our young people,” Heggins said.
The Youth for Change program — developed by Vicki Shurelds — has received $12,000 through the City of Lima’s Community Development Block Grant funds, $3,000 from the Ohio Arts Council and $10,000 from the Allen County Community Development Corporation.
A number of local community leaders have also shown support for the program. They include Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Jed Metzger, Civic Center CEO Abe Ambroza, Council for the Arts of Greater Lima Director Bart Mills, Lima Allen Leadership CEO Matt Childers, Lima Police Department Chief Kevin Martin and Coleman Professional Services.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.