Youth Are Here staff members bring “good energy”


Youth are Here team members like Ramiro Vazquez can be spotted at roaming the halls in their bright yellow shirts at passing time or greeting students in the commons. Photo: Grace Palmer

Grace Palmer, Print Editor in Chief

What is the history of the Youth Are Here program?

James Everett: “Our downtown team came from the go to cards and them getting rid of the school busses… they brought us down because they said they didn’t want high school kids to be getting involved in the drama, the street life downtown, I mean it’s grown stuff that’s going on down there. They were worried about the high school kids being mischievous. What we found when we got down there was the majority of the trouble – like 99.9% of it was from 20 year olds, 20 year olds that were actually acting 14.”

“We brought down crime in downtown Minneapolis 43% and we won a merit award from the police chief. We actually won an award from the attorney general’s office, we won a service award from the city, and then we won a merit award from the police chief for bringing down crime. After that the mayor built us into the city budget, for her first inaugural budget, to go citywide and actually gave us money for that which will start this year.”

“In the process of going through that, after we won the award, we came back on the streets from June to October. Aggravated assaults were down 100%, auto thefts in downtown Minneapolis were down 100%. So our numbers pushed us into a conversation [with] the public school system, we have been trying to work with the public school system for a long time. Dick Mammon, the sitting chair of the school board was really pushing on his way out for youth workers in the schools.”

What is the team’s strategy here at South?

JE: “We’re like the grandparents of school. We get to play with you all and send you home. Teachers got – y’all done fell out last week over a pencil, your mom came and told her off – you’ve got all that stuff going on. We get to hang out with y’all and be positive energy and then be able to go on about our business.”

“So we’re here as a help mate to the school system, to the students to help [with] individual encouragement, and also to be support to the staff that’s here that have the parameters of the public school contracts. We’re independent contractors, so it gives us a different angle and a way to have a different discussion.  Our job is pretty much we’re the goodwill ambassadors. We bring good energy and if we jump into a situation our job is to bring the lighter side of it.”

“Our normal goal is to work ourselves out of a job because we want people to be safe.”

[While I spoke with Everett, a student walked past. He asked where she was going and invited her to sit down at the table with him.]

“We’re not security, we’re engagement. We find out what’s wrong with people. Like she just wanted to leave – but where’s she going go besides just go get pissed at somebody while they bump into her. Sit right here. The engagement is important, whereas if a teacher might have said it she might not have listened. We’re able to come from a different level of rapport and meet people where they’re at.”

What are the members of the team like?

JE: “We’re basically the best of the best of the best of youth workers. We’re all overachievers in our own right – we’re superheroes. This man right here [Ramiro Vasquez] raps, and he even plays basketball in sunglasses. I mean, this dude’s cool. He’s a facilitator of the youth congress.

“This man [Stacey Danner] is a millionaire. [He] actually does solar developments across the country and in other countries. And also has his own award at St. Thomas.”

“So the common ground for being a part of our team is people who’ve already had enough failures and successes to know that they’re not any better than anyone else. If you haven’t had superstardom and haven’t really been the man before, or the woman before, you can’t really be on the team because you’re going to be fighting for trying to prove something… One thing we don’t have to do is prove anything to each other.”

“Me, I’m engagement. I just like the kids. I just like to hang out and be a part of it. I don’t really no nobody’s name. I know a thousand kids, they all know my name, but I don’t know nobody’s name. But I do genuine relationships so it doesn’t matter.”

“Somebody else is like “Oh, I know every kid’s name.” Well, they don’t like you though. You’re not cool. So what. Ain’t nobody cares I don’t know their name.”