A new sense of freedom is on the horizon for Kansas City teens as The Village KC opens its doors and empowers young people to find their futures.
“Freedom, to me, is access to opportunities that allow you to live well,” Di’Anna Saffold, founder and executive director, explained of ways The Village KC aims to unleash the potential of KCMO teens, often neglected by communities once they’ve aged out of school or recreational programming.
“I noticed there’s not a ton of things for [teens] to do unless they play sports for their school. … Access is also an issue. [Maybe things are happening in communities that] they’re not able to get to,” she said, listing scenarios that create gaps in the overall teen experience and can make teens feel limited in what they can do or achieve.
Having served as member engagement coordinator and director at the Linwood and Greater Kansas City YMCA, Saffold’s heart for teens quickly developed into an opportunity to become a community builder, she noted.
“I wanted to be able to create programming that will serve that age group, but also be accessible to the kids who — probably — need it the most,” Saffold said.
Designed with intention around five areas of focus — financial literacy, college and career readiness, health and wellness, community service, and recreation — The Village KC is expected to publicly launch with a game night and fundraiser Feb. 22 at De La Salle Education Center, which also serves as the organization’s home office.
“When I was coming up with the areas of focus, I thought about some things our kids are not readily taught in school. I thought about things that I wish I would’ve learned as I was entering into adulthood,” Saffold said, specifically noting the importance of raising a generation of young adults that is financially literate.
“Financial literacy is huge — especially in the African American community because, sometimes we are not taught how to manage our money from a young age and we don’t have access to certain resources that other people may have,” she added.
“It’s important that kids are taught how to invest and how to save.”
Taking financial lessons a step further, teens will also be exposed to real-world entrepreneurship, Saffold noted.
“I think college is great and I think that everyone should have that opportunity, but we also want to expose them to other things that fuel their passion so they’re not thirty-somethings who are tired of their jobs because it’s not something they’re passionate about and it doesn’t fulfill them,” she said in explanation of The Village KC’s commitmented to helping metro teens navigate the right path for their future.
Following its Feb. 22 launch, the Village KC plans to begin hosting “Freedom Fridays,” a weekly entrepreneur speaker series designed to engage teens curious about entrepreneurism and provide them access to founders and companies — featuring such partners as AbdulRasheed Yahaya and Local Legends Gaming — while identifying what freedom, entrepreneurial or otherwise, means to them.
Local Legends involvement with The Village KC will also result in a STEM camp for middle and high school students, set for the summer, Saffold announced.
Slated programming is expected to include the “Village Work” program, which will be offered to a select number of teens through an application process, Saffold highlighted.
“What we’re doing is engaging local black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs and organizations and asking them to host an intern for the summer,” she said.
The program will coincide with a six-week job readiness course that teaches such skills as resume writing and interview techniques — with an emphasis on remaining authentic and still landing the job, Saffold noted.
Click here for a full list of The Village KC’s program offerings in each of its focus areas.
As The Village KC comes online, additional partners and volunteers are needed to achieve its goals, Saffold said.
“If you’re willing to come and speak to the kids on a Freedom Friday, are you willing to volunteer for one of our events? If you come in and donate your time and connect with the youth and you’re also part of an organization or an entity and want to figure out how to expand, how to have access to teens, you can support us in that way,” she said in example of ways the community can rally behind and help raise the organization.
“It’s all about collaboration. Our motto is, ‘It takes a village to raise a community.’ We always hear. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ — which is very true, but if we’re going to change the status quo and the direction in which our youth are going, it’s going to take a lot of us to make that happen,” she said.
Click here to volunteer with The Village KC.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.