The Center for Teen Empowerment in Rochester will celebrate its annual “On the Rise” Community Luncheon Thursday, May 4 at the Floreano Riverside Convention Center.
TE Rochester Director Doug Ackley and Youth Organizer Nosym Tillmon discussed the program and its effort to give teens a voice Friday on News 8 at Sunrise.
“TE helped me be a better student, a better son, a better older brother looking out for my family,” said Tillmon. “It was basically bringing positivity to my community, but not just my community, but all of Rochester.”
Tillmon has been a Youth Organizer for Teen Empowerment for two years. “We’re setting up events and initiatives that focus on the problems we face in our community,” he said. “We’re trying to flip those problems into solvers– into spreading that positivity.”
Tillmon said finding TE was life changing. “If they didn’t grab me when they did, I probably would be out here doing something that I shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “It helped me bring a lot of my other friends in here too that had been in certain stuff they couldn’t get out of. It transformed their lives an amazing amount too.”
He proudly wears an “Our Lives Matter” t-shirt. “Honestly, I thought of it more like ‘Teen Lives Matter,'” Tillmon said of the shirt. “You know what I’m saying? This ‘Black Lives Matter’ has already been put out there. I understand that matters because, me being black, I follow that a great deal. Teens are being labeled. Teens are being gunned down out here. Teens are gunning down other teens out here. They don’t have the knowledge to really survive out here. If we don’t have any type of support, any type of faith from anybody or any type of good relationship with adults — people like Doug — people from Teen Empowerment or anything of the sort, then it’s basically showing that our lives don’t matter and we’re pushed to the side.”
Ackley said Teen Empowerment is really about young people coming together and seeking change through their own initiatives. “I think adults have enough to say about what the youth problems are the in the city,” he said. “Adults have a lot of ideas about solutions, but we rarely ask our young people. That’s what we’ve been trying to do with Teen Empowerment for years now. We’re trying to give young people the power to change what’s happening in their community. I think, like Nosym said, it is powerful.”
This year’s Community Luncheon will put on a spotlight on inter-generational relationships. “That is a big part of what we do at Teen Empowerment,” Ackley said. “We’re honoring Dr. Walter Cooper this year, a long-time activist, and Kit Miller with the Gandhi Institute. I think bringing those levels of activism that the older generation has had, but looking at the youth power and leadership, we’re finding a way to make those things connect. I think that often times the youth and the older generations are disconnected, and we’re trying to bring that together in a really unique sort of way.”
For more information about Teen Empowerment and tickets for this year’s “On the Rise” Community Luncheon, click here.