BY ARIN SHATTO, COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AMERICORPS VISTA, THE HUB
8-year-old Oakvale native Brady Walker, a singer, actor, and community leader, is driving change in the neighboring community of Princeton. Inspired by the Create Your State convening, a multimedia educational presentation and workshop that inspires and empowers creative community revitalization and development, Brady collaborated with the Princeton-based change-maker Lori McKinney to create a similar experience for young people in the area.
The duo spent two months brainstorming ideas for the inaugural event including traveling artboards, discussing volunteer opportunities, identifying mentors, and more! Last last year, their vision became reality!
Stages Music School, a space that cultivates creativity and self-expression, was the location for the event. Each young person that entered the room was beaming with excitement as they found their seats. Lori and her sister Melissa welcomed each person warmly and created an inviting space for all.
After introductions, the group began discussing project ideas that they would like to lead in their communities. These ideas ranged from revitalizing a local football stadium to supporting a nearby animal shelter to designing a youth-focused mural in downtown Princeton and beyond.
Brady mentioned a broad theme that encapsulated each of his comrades’ ideas: be mindful. When asked to explain what that phrase meant to him, the words kindness, caring, and weird were brought to the surface.
The group collectively supported this initiative and expressed great interest in acting upon it!
What I marveled most about participating in this convening was observing each young person share their ideas and witnessing others grin from ear to ear and clap for their fellow peers. The support was heart-warming and served as a powerful example of young people intentionally organizing and collaborating to create innovative changes in their community!
I am anxiously awaiting to see what will come from this group of young people and the ripple effect that their actions will have in other communities across West Virginia.