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Contact(s):Scott Carter

Monday, July 9, 2007


(Monday, July 9, 2007) – After six months of preparation, the trip of a lifetime is finally here for nine Little Rock youth. The nine teenagers and three chaperones are traveling to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom. Little Rock City Director Ken Richardson is leading the delegation. This week-long visit is the result of collaboration between Little Rock’s Sister Cities Commission; Commission on Children, Youth, and Families; and New Futures for Youth, Inc.

The nine youth and four adults left Little Rock today on the start of this trans-Atlantic journey. They are driving to Memphis and will fly to London from there. The young people were selected from the Youth Initiative Project (YIP) funded by the City of Little Rock. The mission of YIP is to do away with the need for gangs and violence in the lives of young people. The YIP sites were established in areas with the highest level of violent incidents in which juveniles were either victims or perpetrators based on Little Rock Police Department crime statistics. Positive activities are offered as alternatives to activities associated with gangs.

The group has been meeting together since January to prepare for the trip. They have learned about Newcastle and about England in general. They have also learned about Little Rock in order to be good representatives of their city.

“Already this has been a positive experience for the young people,” said Director Richardson. “The preparation they have put in on this trip has been remarkable. They are very well informed about Little Rock, its challenges and opportunities. These nine young men and women are poised to play positive roles as Little Rock moves forward.”

Director Richardson continued, “I think this will be a life-altering experience for the youth. The experiences they have will provide them the opportunity to see the world, and themselves, in a differing light. This will certainly broaden their perspectives on the future and the options they have in life.”
Little Rock and Newcastle are affiliated as Friendship Cities through Sister Cities International. Over the past decade, two youth delegations have visited Little Rock; the most recent was in 2004.

The project is designed to build a stronger connection to the community for the youth participants and expose them to the world outside their own city, state and country. Some of the youth participants have not previously traveled outside Arkansas and others have traveled only to neighboring states.
City leaders in Newcastle have planned activities for the youth while they are in England. The activities include visits to schools, youth clubs, sports facilities and other youth-related locations.

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Newcastle Delegation

Rakya DeLoch
Greater 2nd Care You Go Girl Female YIP
Joe T. Robinson H.S.
Rakya is interested in developing her leadership abilities and doesn’t mind stepping out of her comfort zone to do that. She loves to write poems, stories and sayings. She is interested in journalism and will keep the group’s trip journal. In Newcastle, she would like to sightsee and visit government offices, schools, youth programs, and museums.

Mercedes Hampton
Whetstone Male YIP
McClellan H.S.
Mercedes considers himself to be a leader and is interested in meeting diverse groups of people. In Newcastle he would like to visit schools and youth programs, and attend a sporting event.

Elgin Harris
Step Up Male YIP
McClellan H.S.
Elgin is a top athlete and natural leader. He curious about a lot in English culture, including the way they make their music and the rules of sporting games that he is unfamiliar with. He would like to see as many as possible of the sights in Newcastle.

Makara McDaniel
BCD Female YIP
McClellan H.S.
The only thing Makara is not that interested in is taking notes and writing. Otherwise, in developing her leadership abilities, using computers and the internet, playing and listening to music, and making friendships with people of a different country, she is a 10. She would like to learn more about the English form of government and sees this trip as an adventure race.

Cortez Miles
McClellan H.S.
Cortez is interested in developing leadership abilities, bridging cultural differences and making new friends in Newcastle. While there he would like to sightsee, visit government offices and youth programs, and attend a sporting event.

Sandrekkia Morning
Greater 2nd You Go Girl Female YIP
Mabelvale M.S.
Sandrekkia is a self-starter interested in developing her abilities in many areas. She would like to see a play while in England, and would enjoy performing a skit of the group’s own. Along with seeing the sights in Newcastle, she would like to go swimming, shopping and attend a sporting event. She thinks visiting subterranean London would be cool too.

DeOndre Shackelford
Central H.S.
DeOndre wants to go to Newcastle to challenge his comfort zones. He likes the internet and listening to music. Playing basketball is his passion and he challenges the best players in Newcastle to a game. While there he would like to sightsee, visit schools and other youth programs, and attend a sporting event.

Corey Thomas
Unto Others Male YIP
McClellan H.S.
Corey is interested in developing leadership abilities, designing internet websites, and his music. While in Newcastle, he would like to visit government offices, museums and schools, as well as attend a festival or sporting event. He would also like to see the malls, big houses and where the rich people live.

Deneetra Williams
BCD Female YIP
McClellan H.S.
Deneetra is most interested in computers, the internet and web design. But she also admits to having feminine interests having to do with beauty, makeup and hair. She would like to see and know more about the hospital and health care system in England. While there she would like to sightsee, visit government offices, schools and youth programs, and attend a sporting event. She sees the trip as a great adventure.

Adult Leaders
City Director Ken Richardson
James Barron, Unto Others Male YIP Coordinator
Tony Crofton, New Futures for Youth
Carleena “Shay” Jones, BCD Female YIP Coordinator

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