Mt. Morris Twp., MI—Members of the Youth Ambassadors, a program offered through the nonprofit WOW Outreach, wore their finest gowns, tuxedos and blinged-out facemasks to a black-tie event for Flint’s youth on Feb. 21, 2021.

The occasion? To celebrate themselves and their hard work. 

Youth Ambassadors mission is to reduce violence in Flint by offering teens mentorship, financial literacy and life skills. 

“We teach them about integrity, we teach them about having self-respect, we teach them about credit…being involved in the community and a list of other things,” Director of Young Ambassadors Dennis Williams-Mitchell said, who helped launch the program in 2019. 

To honor its members, the group rented out Prime Eight Ten, an upscale restaurant, for the evening which included an awards ceremony, rap performances, and poetry readings. 

“The main reason was because a lot of us missed out on our proms and homecomings and things like that. So, this was a way where we can combine a formal event and bring awareness about the group,” 16-year-old Antonio Sweeney said, who serves as Young Ambassadors’ board president. 

Latisha Jones, a senior at International Academy, and Hailee Clack, a senior at Powers Catholic High School were each awarded a $150 scholarship to help with educational costs, like books, when they begin college in the fall. 

Jones, an entrepreneur, also sold her line of Mo’Shea body butter at the event, which enhances the look of dark skin. 

Carman-Ainsworth junior Kameron Motley was honored as the organization’s first Youth of the Year, an award given to a member who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to their community. 

“It feels amazing. I’m really inspired by the late Nipsey Hussle. He was an advocate in his city for change and inspiration. And that’s something I’ve strived to become, and this is a representation of it,” Motley said. 

Besides a passion for advocacy, Motley has another thing in common with Hussle: he raps. But on stage, he goes by the name Moosie. 

“We have a lot of different dynamic young people. We have entrepreneurs…we have young people that own multiple businesses, we have artists that have music on iTunes, a host of things. We’re well-rounded,” Williams-Mitchell said. 

In addition to Young Ambassadors, WOW Outreach has launched many youth-focused programs. Flint resident Kenyetta Dotson founded WOW in 2007 to address violence in the Flint community. 

The idea began with her brother, Martez Warren who is the pastor of Church Without Walls. 

“He started it because of the great need in the community to get outside of the walls of the church and meet the needs of the people,” Dotson said. 

She reached out to the community in a “call to action” for residents come together and create a culture of positive change. Twelve people answered and the organization has continued to grow. 

Equinye Garvins said she has seen a change in her 15-year-old daughter Nevaeh Foster since she joined Youth Ambassadors. 

“She loves it. I’ve seen her attitude change. I’ve seen her realize that she has a purpose besides just hanging with her friends…[She knows] who she is versus trying to be somebody that she’s not. So, peer pressure, don’t bother her any at all,” Garvins said. 

Near the end of the night, Dotson gave a few words of encouragement to the teens. 

“You are so important to this society. And you are going to make not only a stain because a stain can be washed away. A great man once told me that ‘don’t just leave a stain, but leave a mark.’ Leave something that can never ever be washed away.” 

The event concluded with some fun, socially-distanced dancing. 

More information on the Youth Ambassadors or other WOW programs can be found here

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...