Sunday Republican (Springfield, MA)
Student launches effort to help inner-city youth
July 23, 1995. By Martha Gold.
Local resident Dmitri Krushnic had his eyes opened when he moved to Chicago to attend college. And after they were opened, Krushnic, 20, had a vision: to bring together inner-city youths to learn about leadership.
"The University of Chicago is a primarily white campus," Krushnic, 20, said at a car wash he was running to raise money for a conference he is coordinating with other college students. "But the surroundings are not. You walk about two blocks away from campus and you’re in a ghetto."
A product of progressive schooling, Krushnic, who graduated from the Greenfield Center School and Northfield Mount Hermon, found himself wanting to help out and get involved with the teenagers who lived in the Southside neighborhood surrounding the university.
With the help of Vicki Vantoch, a fellow University of Chicago student, Krushnic started a volunteer non-profit group, Youth for a Better America, designed to decrease youth violence and racial tensions by bringing a diverse group of young people together to discuss and work out their differences.
Krushnic and Vantoch originally tried to arrange for an annual conference in Chicago, but didn’t get the help they needed.
"I had trouble rallying any kind of activity at school," Krushnic said. "Students there are so apathetic … it really grossed us out."
So Krushnic turned to his mother, who lives at the Center for Cultural Evolution in Colrain. The six-month-old conference center hosts weekend workshops on a variety of peace-oriented issues.
In Franklin County, Krushnic said, he was able to get a lot more support and help from local businesses, schools and organizations. Yesterday, for example, several of Krushnic’s friends, including University of Massachusetts student Ben Block, volunteered to wash cars at the Palmer Gas Station in Greenfield.
LiteLife, Energy Foods and Dominos have all donated food and teachers and staff from Greenfield Community College, Family Planning of Western Massachusetts and Northfield Mount Hermon School are volunteering their time as teachers and counselors. The Traprock Peace Center in Deerfield also has extended its non-profit status to the fledgling group.
"You usually don’t see people rallying around something that they don’t see," Krushnic said. "But violence in youth in the cities is a symptom of a greater social problem."
Krushnic said his group plans a conference, entitled Youth Conference for a Better America, to be held Aug. 19-26 at the Center for Cultural Evolution. The conference would bring 20 girls from different cities, races, cultural and economic groups together to participate in discussions and workshops. The main objective behind the conference is to carry the YBA’s philosophy to the girls through a series of discussions, workshops and classes. After the conference, mentors from each of the participants’ hometowns would continue to work with the girls to help them carry out the YBA’s philosophy in their schools.
Because of the lack of privacy between the individual rooms at CCE, Krushnic said the coordinators for YCBA chose to keep the conference single-sex. They chose girls because recent studies show that pre-adolescent girls have less confidence than boys, he said.
"Since one of YCBA’s goals is to create strong leaders and girls this age are losing confidence to be leaders, we decided girls needed an opportunity to come together at a conference designed just for them," a pamphlet explaining the conference states.
Since most of the girls are coming from low-income families, Krushnic and other coordinators are raising money to pay their way. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering as a youth counselor should contact Krushnic at XXX-XXXX.
Copyright 1995, The Republican Company, Springfield, MA. All Rights Reserved. Used by Strange Pictures of Misha Collins with permission.