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Viewpoint: Revolutionizing teen engagement at The Warehouse

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Logan Herring
executive director of the Kingswood Community Center

Sixteen percent of Wilmington teens drop out of high school. Thousands of jobs in and around the city remain unfilled. Clearly that equation does not work, but a passionate group of community leaders who care about the future of our city and our state are ready to make that problem add up.

With extreme poverty, a lack of economic opportunity and gun violence being the norm rather than the exception for too many of Wilmington’s youth, it is critical that our community work together to turn around the fortunes of our city’s children if we want to see long-lasting change and help our youngest residents succeed.

We need to get our kids off the streets, out of trouble and into good jobs if we are to rewrite their story from one of violence and trouble to one of education and hope. One way to do that is by assuring our city’s youth have healthy outlets where they can engage in meaningful after-school activities.

Working under the umbrella of the newly formed Teen Warehouse Inc., upwards of 40 local nonprofit and community organizations that serve youth are working together to create such an outlet, where youth can access programs and services to help them learn, grow and succeed while having fun and building community among their peers. “The Warehouse” is a one-stop shop for our city’s young people that will be youth-led and youth-driven, thus helping assure its success.

Already, teens from throughout the city who are participating in the development of the project are excited for an opportunity to, in their own words; “have an impact on my community,” and “turn our dreams into reality.”
Working together as a team and a community, the goal of the Warehouse is to not only achieve good results, but to revolutionize teen engagement and help our kids develop into confident, competent and courageous young adults.

The Warehouse is also a leader in collaboration as it will bring multiple teen-serving organizations together in a common space with the singular goal of improving the lives and circumstances of Wilmington’s underserved youth. This will be a win-win not only for kids, but for the service community as organizations that serve our city’s young people are too often overwhelmed, under-resourced and working in silos that limit their full reach and capabilities. Working together, the Warehouse will become a co-working space for a collaborative network of nonprofits serving teens, and where the teens will have a voice to explore, discover their passions, advocate for themselves and develop skills needed for employment in today’s economy.

The team is cautiously optimistic the former Prestige Academy Charter School can serve as a home where collaborative efforts coupled with cutting-edge technology will be used to foster community, empower ambition, and encourage exploration and discovery.

Growing up in neighborhoods rife with violence, poverty and limited opportunities, Wilmington’s youth face a steep uphill climb towards healthy and productive futures. The time is now to help our kids turn that around. Failure to do so is not an option. Our children are the taxpayers, the homeowners, the employees and the employers for all our futures, and we must do all we can to help them thrive.

The Warehouse was one of the winning ideas at the Reinventing Delaware series, an idea crowdsourcing event developed by the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation. Logan Herring is the executive director of the Kingswood Community Center in the Riverside neighborhood of Wilmington. For information on how to get involved or support The Warehouse through USEED crowdfunding and other efforts, contact Logan at LHerring@kgwcc.org.

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