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Cleveland after-school program helps kids find their passion and preps them for the workforce

'Our Youth, Our Future' opened as a safe space for kids across the greater Cleveland area and continues to grow in popularity
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Posted at 7:45 AM, Feb 03, 2023

CLEVELAND — A Cleveland area nonprofit is working to make sure every child can succeed inside and outside of the classroom. It's called "Our Youth, Our Future", and it's targeting kids entering those stressful and typically challenging teenage years.

The officials behind the after-school initiative say it's about investing in the youth and inspiring them to find their passion and creativity.

They have several open spots.

Organizers encourage parents and grandparents to enroll their kids using the available ACE funds (The Ohio Afterschool Child Enrichment) and take full advantage of their services.

Located in the heart of the Union Miles Historic District—you'll find opportunity in action.

"The children needed somewhere to go, to learn, to eat, to make friends," Barbara Bradford-Williams, Executive Director & CEO of "Our Youth, Our Future" said.

Bradford-Williams and her team are passionate about making a difference for the children in greater Cleveland.

Her non-profit JB's Lunch and Literacy presents "Our Youth, Our Future"--opened as a safe space once class lets out each day.

"The streets are not safe nowadays. So, we want our children to be able to enjoy. And still enjoy life. Still be able to have something to do after school," Bradford-Williams said.

It's a twist on the after-school program.

They offer a space where kids can podcast and host their own radio shows, talking about real issues.

Steps away—is a full-scale recording studio with an audio booth, editing software and projector.

Whether kids want to rap or sing—they can express themselves here.

"This is engineering, this is the art of music. This is how it starts for you to hear the favorite song that's on the radio," Mercedes Hurt, "Our Youth, Our Future" District Manager said.

Instructor Alan McClendon helps the students mix tracks and write songs.

"It's something that they wanna do. So, every day they come in pumped and ready to learn," Alan McClendon, "Our Youth, Our Future" Instructor said.

The hands-on learning experience doesn't stop there.

There's also a full-scale hair salon with tables, training stations and workspaces to teach students the specialized skill set.

"Shampooing, blow drying, conditioning, all the treatments that help you begin to navigate doing service," Rashana Bates, "Our Youth, Our Future" Instructor said.

Once the students successfully complete the Beauty and Business course, they're given a kit with all the essential tools so they're ready for the workforce and prepped to take on clients.

Students are even able to get certified as licensed cosmetologists in the state of Ohio.

Bradford-Williams says the need for support and guidance across the board is tremendous.

"We are offering household supplies and sanitation supplies for the kids to take home, if they need it."

She says investing in the youth starts with outreach and making learning and career development fun.

"They wanna come every single day, all day. Weekends. They love it here," Bradford-Williams said.

"Our Youth, Our Future" also works to place students in jobs once they complete programs.

The program has become so successful it's expanding. A west side location is opening this week on West 43rd Street.

To enroll in "Our Youth, Our Future"—contact Barbara Bradford Williams at 216-355-7140.