I have been very fortunate to work with a lot of young folks, mostly teens, during my time at CHWC. They are the engine of the 2,000 hours of volunteer service every year. They are the ones that work side by side with me in neighborhood alleyways, in schools, parks, and at all of our CB&E projects in the Grandview Corridor. They knock on doors, dig post holes, plant flowers and gather up all of the disguising things that people discard from their basements, cars, and pockets. Not always a fun task especially in the heat of summer or the cold of weather.
There have been many, but the original Art Squad holds that special place in my heart. They were the first to buy into using Art as an engagement tool in neighborhoods, to attract other youth, and help residents address social concerns. They did the grunt work of involving neighbors, cleaning out vacant storefronts, cutting brush and turning the soil at our urban farm. They are amazing, but since the beginning nearly 7 years ago, 1 has moved away, 2 are in college, 1 has graduated and is gainfully employed. Which is all good and they still help out when they can.
Then there is Diosselyn Tot, the first person I met under the age of 30 when I started at CHWC. She was 15 years old, a volunteer, answering the phone, filing papers, and cleaning out the refrigerator. I asked her one day if she wanted to get out of here and do work in our neighborhoods. She said yes and we have both been in these neighborhoods ever since. She helped build our first community garden, recruited other youth, passed out fliers and was one of the founding members of the Art Squad. She has worked with me for nearly 7 years, as a volunteer, as part of our summer youth program, and for the past 2 years as a part-time employee.
Diosselyn has been an amazing and essential member of the team. She has taken responsibility for all of our Art programming including the EPIC Clay Studio. She works tirelessly to organize residents to work together, and address their concerns. Communicates with all of our neighborhood leaders, mentors youth and can even fill in at the coffee shop in an emergency. She is invaluable to our mission. Diosselyn graduates from KU this spring and plans to come on full time at CHWC.
Diosselyn has fostered several projects over the last few years and today I want to share her latest. As part of her curriculum work at KU she developed a website to promote Community Building & Engagement projects and programs in the Grandview Corridor, the most densely populated and poverty-ridden, per square foot, neighborhoods in Wyandotte County. Here is the link to the site: