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Patti LaBelle to sing for Cleveland’s ‘youth’

Concert at the State Theater to benefit the Cleveland organization, Youth Opportunities Unlimited

Rhonda Crowder | 8/13/2013, 6:59 p.m.
Providing a first-time work experience is one of the things Y.O. U. typically do for the children. And thanks to ...
The Maintenance Team

On November 8, the original R&B diva herself, Ms. Patti LaBelle will appear in concert at the State Theater to benefit the Cleveland organization, Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U).

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Katie Barrett, Y.O.U. supervisor, works with Jaleeah Jefferies of John Adams. (Staff photo by Rhonda Crowder)

Y.O.U, for almost 30 years, has worked to empower teenage (ages 14 to 19) who come from families below or at the poverty level. The goal is to teach them to succeed in school, the workplace and in life. To date, they’ve served over 150,000 young people.

“The only thing holding us back for serving more kids is funding,” said Marc Nathanson, Y.O.U. senior development executive. Nathanson went on to explain that the purpose of the concert is twofold: to increase the organization’s name recognition throughout northeast Ohio and to simply have a good time. “By bringing Patti to town, it gives us the opportunity to educate the community about Y.O.U. and what it does for our youth.”

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Devin Steve working with other students on graphics

Providing a first-time work experience is one of the things Y.O. U. typically do for the children. And thanks to the collaboration between the city of Cleveland and Y.O.U, not all of the city’s youth spent the summer roaming the streets, wreaking havoc. Through this partnership, many gained valuable experience by working at the city’s Division of Water on Harvard Ave., one of the many sites provided throughout Cleveland.

Devin Steve, 18, who has been in the program from three years, is on the graphic design team. He recently graduated from University School and plans to attend St. Olaf College this fall.

Over the course of this past summer, he helped design the program’s T-shirt in addition to creating power point presentations, among other things. In the end, his team submitted five different images. “We were taught how to market our designs and how to present,” he said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to get experience. It teaches character building.”

Other students worked on the rain barrel program, illegal dumping, meter reading or maintenance. Leonard Steve, Y.O.U., supervisor said the work gives the teenagers a lot responsibility and teaches them to get the job done. “In today’s society, you have to have good structure. This opportunity helps them to build up confidence to know they can do a job and do it successfully,” said Steve.

Steve, who has worked this site for seven years, also explained that, in some cases, he’s amazed at how the program evolved from painting hydrates in the beginning to lab work. “It’s an innovative way for the youth of Cleveland to come and learn.”

He also said this paycheck helps the entire family, in some cases. Yet, through a partnership with Huntington Bank, the students have total control over their earnings as they received a debit card to access the funds direct deposited into their account.

Seventeen year old Myron Smith, an upcoming senior at John Adams, said he’s learned more during the program than in schools. At the Department of Water, Smith is on the maintenance team. He’s responsible for keeping the facility clean and planting flowers in the garden.

This is his second job, but first time working with Y.O.U. He thinks its fun. “I learn a lot. I didn’t realize the plants need bees to survive,” he said.

Smith revealed that he wants to play football or run track but would also consider becoming a doctor or lawyer. He wants to attend Kent State. In the meantime, he enjoys painting plant pots.

“It’s still going strong,” said Leonard Steve. “I thank Mayor Jackson a lot, a whole lot. Too many of these kids would be out on the streets.

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Youth Opportunities Unlimited presents "An Evening with Patti LaBelle" at the State Theatre on Friday, November 8, at 8:00 p.m.

Tickets for the Patti LaBelle concert currently on sale at the State Theater’s box office (216.241-6000). For more information about the concert and/or the organization, visit youthopportunities.com.