“I realized I hadn’t seen a group that quite looked like this. With people from these different backgrounds doing all sorts of different work… I realized we are United for Youth but truly it is the youth who united us”.
Asheville and Buncombe County students, teachers, members of local grassroots organizations and individual members of our community gathered in the hundreds in Pack Square Park on Thursday evening, August 18th, 2022. This vibrant and diverse crowd gathered to celebrate the first-ever jointly hosted United for Youth Block Party and confirm their support for the youth of Buncombe County. United for Youth also presented a new logo, which has been designed and created by an Asheville city school student and local graphic designer, John Hornsby.
“There was no one who was not invited”, said Joseph Jamison of the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County. The inclusive and vibrant atmosphere reflected the fact that all were welcome to join the largest event United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County(UWABC) has hosted since the COVID-19 pandemic. Jamison was the lead coordinator for the United for Youth Block Party and helped over 30 local non-profits, leadership groups, and UWABC partners get the opportunity to engage with our local youth in a unique and family-centered environment.
“For us this event was important because we are a learning center for youth…” said Jasmine Bright, with Christine W. Learning Center, “so, it was important to get out here and meet the youth and see what they are into, get to talk with them and play some games with them and spread a little information about who we are and how we help.”
Connecting community members and specifically the youth with positive and helpful resources is United for Youth’s commitment. The goal of this partnership between Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, and representatives of local health, social service, higher education, and youth services community partners is to support all children and youth in their learning, growth, and thriving in a vibrant, healthy, and connected community.
“Events like the United forYouth Block Party are really important because opportunities for us to come together through our intersectional communities are really rare these days especially after three years of pandemic”, said Adrian Parra, the executive director of Youth Outright.
The event was hosted shortly before the start of the 2022-2023 Buncombe County and Asheville City School year and served not only to connect youth with resources but also as a visual and physical confirmation of absolute support from community members and partners who signed the United for Youth Partnership agreement. This agreement serves as a mutual accountability tool; a way to measure if, and how, we are meeting our vision, mission, and Bold Community Goal.
If the Partnership Agreement is the written confirmation of communal support of Asheville and Buncombe County youth, then the United for Youth Block Party was the visual representation.
“I saw a lot of connections happening…” said Sapphire Debellott of Stella Stellar Network, “I saw a lot of children smiling, eating, enjoying donuts and the free food and activities.” The United for Youth Block Party gave local youth more than just an opportunity to enjoy delicious and free donuts. A large focus was placed on bolstering the lines of communication between families and nonprofits and organizations like Read to Succeed Asheville Buncombe. “Today we were handing out culturally responsive books with loads of diverse characters in them to families…”, said Jacquelyn Hall with Read to Succeed Asheville Buncombe. Many partners and tablers at the United for Youth Block Party noted how this event gave them the opportunity to interact with local youth in an unique and meaningful way.
“To be able to not just attend but host an event where folks from across our community with all kinds of different backgrounds and life experiences and stories,who show up differently in the world, who look differently from one another is amazing,” said Joseph Jamison “and at the same time have that vastly diverse space with enough community so that no one feels alone no one feels like they are the only one who looks like them. To me that’s how we get to where we want to go with our Bold Community Goal.”
United for Youth is a partnership between Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, the City of Asheville, Buncombe County, United Way of Asheville, and Buncombe County, and a growing network of local health, social service, higher education, and youth services community partners. This multi-generational, cross-sector cradle-to-career partnership is committed to ensuring their vision that our children and youth learn, grow, and thrive in a vibrant, healthy, and connected community. Learn why United Way is digging deep in our role with United for Youth here.
A special thanks to all the partners and community members who made this event possible.