Phillips youth summit highlights alternatives to violence

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While the weather outside was grey and dreary on April 29, the kids inside the Stewart Park building in Minneapolis couldn’t have been happier. They had gathered for the third annual Phillips Youth Summit.

“Our goal is to present positive alternatives to the young people of this neighborhood,” said Shirley Heyer of Midtown Phillips.

Heyer is one of the Youth Summit committee members who helped organize the day’s events. The events gave the kids a sampling of what the community offers them, including video production shows from Phillips Community TV, a boxing exhibition by Circle of Discipline and a showcase of activities offered by the Minneapolis Police Activities League.

Just about every kid was running around with a Phillips Youth Summit T-shirt, one of many gifts given out at the Youth Summit. “This is the first time we just put “Annual Youth Summit” instead of the year in case we had any left over, but now we are down to only a few shirts,” joked Heyer.

The first guest speaker was a man of many titles: former Minnesota Vikings star and current Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page. Page’s long list of accomplishments showed that there is another path in life outside of gangs and violence, Heyer said.

“We want to show them that they have a future,” Heyer added.

There was also a group of student volunteers from Gustavus Adolphus College. Student Emily Lauglin explained why they were helping out at Stewart Park. “It’s part of Gustavus Give Day,” Lauglin said, “when students volunteer mostly on campus, but we also help out alums off campus.”

Lauglin was enjoying her volunteer work and the day’s events. “The hip-hop and break dancers were really interesting, but dealing with the little kids has been the most fun,” she said.

The main sponsor of the Youth Summit was the Phillips Weed & Seed Initiative and the U.S. Department of Justice. The “weeding” part of the federally funded neighborhood program relies on local police to “weed out” violent criminals, drug dealers and other negative influences. The “seeding” supports activities like the Phillips Youth Summit, with community-led programs that help prevent crime.

After a free lunch provided by Subway and VJ Smith’s Hot Dog Grill, the kids were treated to a celebrity panel on “How did I get to working the job I now have?” The panel included Minneapolis City Councilmember Robert Lilligren, Minnesota Thunder players Kiki Lara and Freddy Juarez, Edna Stevens Talton, owner-director-performer of Universal Dance Destiny, PCTV executive director John Gwinn and former Minnesota Vikings player Ed McDaniel. While older youth listened, many of the younger kids were busy with their free portable radios and headphones.

To the disappointment of some of the kids, the Twins baseball clinic was cancelled due to bad weather. But kids like Ben Lewis enjoyed all the stuff offered at the summit. “There was some cool stuff going on, I hope they do it again next year.”

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