WARREN - Launching a campaign to get young people involved in creating a better community, Inspiring Minds and the Wean Foundation are putting together "We Are Warren," what they call an effort to help area youths discover and achieve their hopes.
The Wean Foundation is providing a $30,000 grant to Inspiring Minds to develop a strategic plan through surveying young people and adults about their concerns for the city and their hopes for its future.
Deryck Toles, founder of of the eight-year-old Inspiring Minds, plans to get the survey out to city residents through existing organizations that work with youths and through social media.
"One of our goals is to reach out to those in the community that normally aren't included in these types of efforts," Toles said. "We want to get feedback from under-represented populations of the city."
Toles has been working with young people through Inspiring Minds' two-year-old summer youth program. Jennifer Roller, acting president of the Wean Foundation, asked him for help on a program to focus on youth concerns.
"Our summer youth program was successful because we reached out to our community partners and allowed them to use their specific skills," Toles said. "Now we want to expand the program to help more kids."
Toles emphasized We Are Warren is not simply an Inspiring Minds project, but a movement that will need all organizations wanting area youths to succeed to participate.
"The survey is to find out what people want to see done in the city and to find strategic ways to address those needs," Toles said. "We want to find ways to help every kid living in Warren to graduate."
Organizations already pledging their support include the city, Warren City Schools, both the YMCA and the YWCA, FirstEnergy, Huntington Bank and others.
"This is an opportunity for people to be heard about the future of our kids," Toles said. "There needs to be a call to action from every sector of our community."
Roller said they already reached out to 30 community organizations and leaders that could donate money, space, manpower and organizational skills.
"We are looking to make a three- to five-year plan to address the needs of our youths," Roller said.
The survey will be done over the next two months and a specific plan of action is hoped to be released in late March.
"We do not want a plan that will sit on someone's desk," she said. "We want an actionable plan."
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said there is no question that the city's young people are at a competitive disadvantage - in large part due to economic and social conditions in which they live.
"I commend the Wean Foundation for the $30,000 award being given to Inspiring Minds so we can begin the process of designing a plan for youth development for our city children," Franklin said. "Creating positive impact on young lives is the goal of this committee and should be the goal we all set for ourselves."
Franklin said the community needs to nurture its young people, offer them hope and offer them opportunities.
"We need to let them know that as a community we care about them and want them to have all the advantages we can give them to have successful lives," he said.