2021’s Top Stories: Ahoskie Youth Center opens
Published 2:30 pm Thursday, December 30, 2021
From October 9, 2021
AHOSKIE – The single story, brick building that sits between the Ahoskie Rural Fire Department and the Ahoskie Police Department on West Main Street has been used for many purposes over the years.
However, it may now have found its true objective.
The building was formally christened as the Ahoskie Youth Center during a ceremony held on Oct. 7. It was originally constructed as the Band Room for Ahoskie High School and later served as a voting precinct and as a building rented out for community events.
The idea of transforming the old building into a Youth Center is credited to Ahoskie Mayor Weyling White. He said the Oct. 7 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Youth Center doubled as an official launch to the “Our Children Matter Campaign.”
“As you know there’s been much tragedy in our town involving our youth,” White said. “There’s been much discussion, much collaboration, and a lot of ideas put on the table as to how we can combat that, to prevent further tragedies from happening.”
White said he has been personally affected by tragic events that have taken away people he knew and loved.
“We have to take a stand and make sure that, going forward, no other family has to experience that pain,” he stressed. “That’s the purpose of this Youth Center, a place, a safe haven for our young people to grow, learn, and interact with each other in a positive way.”
He stressed that the need for such a place was rooted deep in tragedy and credited three local women – Shannon Harrell, Taiwanna Saulsbury, and Shannon Vann – for their bold vision to find ways to protect and nurture the dreams of local youth. Those three women each lost a child to gun violence.
“These families have endured emotional pain and suffering. Their losses impacted many lives here in our town and community,” White noted. “Part of their vision, which has become our vision, is youth violence prevention. Our youth are afraid to walk the streets in their own neighborhoods. We’ve got to take our streets back and make them safe again.”
White thanked members of the Ahoskie Town Council and a group of volunteers who made this dream become a reality. He also introduced members of the newly selected Youth Advisory Council. They will participate in community service projects and plan/develop leadership opportunities for young people. The group will meet monthly where they will brainstorm ideas and serve as a voice for other youth residing in Ahoskie.
“We will use these bright minds to build ideas, build solutions, build innovation that involve our youth,” White said.
Enviva Biomass is a corporate sponsor of the Youth Center.
“We appreciate the opportunity to provide direct support and sponsorship for this Youth Center,” said Chris Brown, Community Relations Director with the company, which operates one of its pellet mills in Ahoskie. “We see the need to invest in our youth. I commend Weyling on this initiative. It’s a great step for Ahoskie and for the community in general going forward.”
U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) attended the event and also praised Mayor White for his vision to help provide alternative ways for youth to safely interact.
“Nothing makes me prouder than to go into a community and see young, passionate leadership,” Butterfield remarked. “Mayor White has done great work in this community. He hasn’t done it alone as he has partners on the Town Council, partners in the community, partners in law enforcement, and partners in education. All of you working together have made this day possible.”
Hertford County Public Schools is one of the partners of the Youth Center.
“If we are going to change the face of young people, it has to be done collectively with partners such as Mayor White and the Town of Ahoskie who made their vision a reality with this Youth Center,” said HCPS Superintendent Dr. William T. Wright Jr. “We will continue to work together for the betterment of our youth. The more we can provide safe spaces for our youth, the better off we are.”
White introduced two additional partners, Chris Khan and LaTasha Vaughan. Their respective organizations – New Direction and BeYou-tiful – will use the Youth Center for their programs.