Founded in 2003 as a community drop-in center and incorporated as an independent non-profit in 2008, Street Smart Youth Project is a community-based youth development 501(c)(3) offering a wide range of programming including young adult education, mentoring, community outreach and evidenced-based prevention curricula for youth and young adults ages 10-24 within under-resourced communities throughout Atlanta.
SSYP serves communities where youth have too few resources. We actively engage minority youth in structured, community-based programs to involve, prepare, and empower them to grow and live as healthy adults, with an emphasis on prevention regarding delinquency, substance use, HIV and STD's. SSYP's mission is a model of empowerment through change and opportunity. Street Smart Youth Project offers opportunities that allow our participants to Transcend, Transform, and Take Flight!
Something that began as a simple question posed to staff by our Executive Director has turned into a new growth opportunity for the organization. The question was asked of staff before the grand opening of our new drop-in center. She asked, "What would we offer our youth if money was no option?" The collective response was activities that offered opportunities to transcend their immediate issues/environments, transform through positive and effective interventions and take flight, ultimately growing and changing to become healthier people(mind/body/spirit). One of the activities that stuck was 'Passport' where our youth would pick a country that they would learn about here in Atlanta, and after mastering the information and practicing some of the country's cultural practices, our youth would travel to that country and see all the things they learned virtually. Unfortunately, like most non-profits, we don't have all the money in the world, but we still took this passport concept and made it real. Each month, our youth are given the opportunity to pick a country. We have activities that teach us about the culture. For example, when we went to the Bahamas in September, we created masks and participated in our own Junkanoo. We also made a meal that represented the true essence of Bahamian culture. Through our in-house celebrations, our youth were able to experience some elements of traveling to the Bahamas without actually going. We have also visited Thailand, Mexico, and Nigeria with our virtual passports. Each time we enter a new country, youth are able to attain a new stamp in their passport. Now, what if we were able to actualize this exposure opportunity?
Atlanta is home to the Mercedes Benz Stadium, the World of Coca-Cola and the Atlanta Hawks. Every year, Atlanta brings tourists from all over the world for festivals and other amazing attractions. Unfortunately, there are also other elements in Atlanta such as poverty, sex trafficking, and high crime. Every day, our youth wake up in environments that are in opposition to its many resources. These environments often normalize drinking, smoking, thereby promoting a mentality of hopelessness, which can be daunting for youth to overcome, especially when they see it every day, leading them to believe that this is all the world has to offer. However, by exposing them to different cultures and environments, they are able to see another side of what the world has to offer, in addition to their immediate environments. Allowing them to incorporate different experiences may expand their life story by changing the narrative. For many of our youth and young adults, the opportunity to excel and transcend their immediate environment becomes their success story.
In an effort to facilitate exposure to new things and show our youth that the world is as big as their imagination, SSYP began our Passport program. Through the Passport program, our youth get the experience of traveling to countries virtually. But, in 2018, we are planning to travel to Nassau, Bahamas, on our first real international journey. This country was chosen due to its proximity to the USA and the lower associated costs. In the future, we would like to take our youth to Africa, Asia, and Europe!
We are Street Smart and we write our own stories!! You can be a part of making this inaugural international experience an actuality. Our goal is to travel in the summer of 2018 with at least 20 Street Smart Youth Project members! Please consider giving to our great cause for Georgia Gives Day 2017!