Youth Coordinating Board's Terrall Lewis (far left) and Evan Barnett (far right) pose with Minneapolis DID Ambassador Byron on Thursday afternoon on Nicollet Mall during their afternoon outreach.
Terrall Lewis and Evan Barnett are making connections. The pair are part of the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board’s Street Outreach team that aims to provide friendly faces to area youth while also showcasing leadership through interaction in Downtown Minneapolis.
The group works throughout the year developing relationships with students in area schools, and they typically provide youth programming throughout the summer in an effort to interrupt the behavior cycle for youth who are disruptive or disengaged downtown by connecting them with meaningful activities and resources.
With both the Minneapolis and St. Paul Public School districts on Spring Break from March 30 to April 3, YCB spent this week from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. here in downtown interacting with the youth community in hopes of lending a hand of leadership during students’ free time.
“Some of the hope we can take away from being here is building relationships, knocking down barriers and really enriching the culture of Downtown Minneapolis,” Barnett said. “Making sure these young people become part of these cultures and are respected.”
The impact is noticeable. As youth walk down Nicollet Mall and pass both Barnett and Lewis, they exchange greetings, handshakes and high-fives. One teenager passed by, and Lewis asked how her birthday is going. On Wednesday, as a thunderstorm moved through and heavy rain fell on downtown, the YCB group was on the street. Rain or shine, they’re dedicated toward their cause.
Getting to know area youth and showing them that they’re a support system that is looking out for them on the street is an important piece of their mission.
“As young people, we’re cultivating them to be the most productive and most useful purveyors of whatever this Minneapolis greatness is supposed to be,” Lewis said. “But you have to create those relationships to make it happen.”
Being part of the Minneapolis and St. Paul School Districts’ Spring Break week also helps YCB prepare for the upcoming summer of events, Barnett said. The more they’re connected with area youth, the more they understand what kids are currently going through and what they face as challenges, the more prepared they’ll be for when programming begins again during the summer.
The YCB Street Outreach works closely with the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, its SafeZone collaborative and the Minneapolis Police Department in order to achieve goals of building trust and relationships in the downtown area, establishing familiar faces among area youth and creating positive interactions with adults and authority figures.
“We got out here during Spring Break so we know some of the things that we’re going to face during the next session when we go out on the street,” Barnett said. “The biggest thing is giving people something to do, a place to go. Just directing them in a place and letting them pass through safely.”
Lewis said it’s important to create a reciprocal relationship between our area youth and adults, bridging a gap of communication between both sides in order to help facilitate a united community.
“The No. 1 thing I want to do is recognize their humanity,” Lewis said. “The purpose of communication is to express our humanity to each other.”