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KCMO non-profit organization “The Village KC” creates opportunities for underserved students

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A community organization founded in February 2020 is creating a safe space for underprivileged teens in the Kansas City area.

“We’re all here as teenagers. We’re all going through changes and no one is judging you,” said Reggie Locke Jr., vice chair of The Village KC’s youth advisory board. “No one makes you feel like you don’t belong, because this is a safe place and we are here to take care of you.”

Village KC was founded on the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”, according to which an entire community should be responsible for raising a child in a safe environment.

DiAnna Saffold, founder and executive director of The Village KC, said she wants to create a village similar to the one she had as a child in her church and neighborhood.

She and other adults do this by creating positive programs and experiences for teens, focusing on black students in the Kansas City metro area.

They offer programs such as art, photography, fitness, and technical classes including hair and cosmetology.

Saffold said it’s important to focus on arts programs, because schools often cut or scale back those classes or clubs.

“For young Black people, I think it’s important to provide these opportunities so they can continue to grow, learn, feel safe with expression, and also feel validated in their feelings, emotions, and the way they think,” Saffold said .

Village KC also organizes events such as an annual gala and teen nights.

Chase Bluett — a sixth grader at Raytown South Middle School — said those events are some of his favorite activities across The Village KC.

“Teen night — it really brings in a lot of people you wouldn’t have known, so it’s really fun to meet those people,” Bluett said.

Since 2020, the nonprofit has served more than 400 students with their five programs.

In the future, she hopes to expand the number of programs offered to meet the needs of more kids in Kansas City.

Their goal? Inspire young people to become the change they want to see in the world.

“Make sure they have other options than getting into violence in the city,” Locke Jr. said. “Here are other options, like The Village KC, where they can come and have fun with people and get lifelong connections that they will have for the rest of their lives”.

Another big goal is to purchase a building to house their programs. They hope to offer a gym, swimming pool and community center for the Kansas City area.

For now, leaders are proud to bring programs directly to students.

“We come to your school; we come to your local community center,” Saffold said. “You don’t have to go all the way south or all the way north. We’re right here in the center of town, and that helps with the access issue we have to a lot of these opportunities.”

Village KC has teenagers who serve on their youth advisory board to help make scheduling decisions and provide feedback on current classes. Teens help adults plan activities that kids will enjoy.

“One of the most important things we can do as adults is make sure our young people have a voice,” Saffold said.

Natalie Locke, a fifth grader at the University Academy, said all of these programs offer students a haven.

“It’s for them to have somewhere safe to go if they want to get away from home or if they want to communicate with others and make new friends if they’re hard to find at school,” Locke said.

Bluett said meeting new people and learning new things gives him a chance to express himself and have a peer system and supportive adults.

“I think it’s really important to have a safe space, and not just to calm down, but to do other things,” Bluett said. “Like playing basketball, playing sports, or doing any other activity you might want in that safe space, so you can just let off steam while in a safe environment.”

To learn how you can get involved with The Village KC or support their mission, visit their website.

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