Imagine living right next to a gas station and being forbidden to walk there for a snack. For many of Baltimore’s youth, like Octavia Chase, this is a reality. "My parents don't really allow me to go outside," Octavia shared. "The neighborhood doesn’t seem bad, but if I can’t go to a gas station that’s right there, there must be something wrong. That bothers me." But the high school student found an alternative environment in the Eddie Conway Freedom School, where she can actively give back to her community and attempt to change it for the better.
"I learned to feel happy and proud I’m from West Virginia," said one young woman after a trip sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Appalachian Center for Equality (ACE) program. As it expands into two other West Virginia counties, ACE hopes to bring even more young people to the same types of realizations.
AFSC’s efforts in West Virginia’s southern coalfields have historically been focused on young African-American women in Logan County. Mentoring gives these women a safe space to learn about themselves and their community with the guidance of trusted adults. Three years ago, a male mentor began working with young men interested in the program. The program has expanded geographically too; Mingo and Boone County high schools are set to join Logan County in hosting ACE groups in the coming school year, according to Lida Shepherd, who became program director in January 2012.
ACE aims to empower participants by imparting interpersonal and personal skills and helping them advance to higher education. To accomplish this, the program takes participants on visits to colleges, provides test preparation, helps with applications, and directs students to resources like scholarships and fellowships to make higher education affordable. The program also uses trips to teach young people about local history, social justice and advocacy, and environmental concerns. These experiences give students exposure to cultures different from their own, often by allowing them to interact with others their age from different regions and even different countries.
During their summer break, students from the ACE mentoring program in Logan County toured Southern Community and Technical College where they learned about all the different college options available right in their backyard. After the tour, we took a trip over the mountain to Blair Community Center and Museum. The students learned about the historic labor struggle known as the Battle of Blair Mountain, coal mining's effect on water quality, and what life was like in the coal camps of Logan County.
Students from the Appalachian Center for Equality's BAPS (Believing All is Possible!) mentoring program in Logan, WV visited West Virginia State University, a historically black univerity, in April 2012. During our time on campus, we met with the Director of the Upward Bound program, attended the Multicultural Day activities, toured the campus, and met with a financial aid officer to learn about scholarship opportunities. By the end of the day, the students were very excited about the prospect of attending WVSU.
The girls from the Appalachian Center for Equality's BAPs (Believing All is Possible) mentoring group visited the WV State Capitol in March 2012. We met with community advocates working on domestic violence, mine safety, reproductive health, labor rights, and social work. We also attended session in the House of Delegates where we were introduced from the floor by Delegate Greg Butcher (D-Logan). Delegate Meshea Poore, a young African American lawyer, inspired the girls to have a dream and pursue that dream with passion.
Eisha Mason serves as Interim Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee in the Pacific Southwest. As part of her program work, Eisha worked with partners to pass the only state resolution opposing U.S.
The Youth Empowerment through Conflict Resolution Program will be hosting a Listening and Understanding workshop. Listening is very important in gaining understanding and being able to work together more peacefully.
This workshop is open to the public but is in preparation for our Facilitated Dialog with LGBTQ youth on December 4th at Coppin State University.
This Listening and Understanding workshop will use engaging activities to review good and poor listening skills, active listening, and empathy. From 11:30am to 12:00pm we will focus on issues facing LGBTQ youth.
Youth at Pittsburgh's Racial Justice Through Human Rights Group discussing violence and nonviolence
Who we are
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.