The new mobile organization strives to mentor youth and their families all across the city.
Working close to a decade at the Riverside Correctional Facility, South Philly native Jameela Williams noticed a recurring theme among inmates.
Assisting victims of violence, drug addiction, prostitution and other adversities, the nurse had a revelation.
“There was a gap, and in order to bridge that gap — they didn’t have nobody. Some of them just didn’t have the resources,” she said. “Some just needed an ear to listen to them. Some just needed help. So, I had the passion to just want to help people. And I wanted to start first in my community.”
Recognizing that support is key to prevention, Williams recently established Reclaim U, Inc. — a pending nonprofit striving to “empower and inspire individuals in order to strengthen families and communities.”
Last Saturday, the group, comprised of seven board members from around Philadelphia, held its official kickoff event at the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Courtyard Apartments at Riverview on 4th and Washington. From local politicians to former prisoners, a series of guest speakers endorsed Williams and her team’s message on the premise and hopes of Reclaim U.
“You — you are our future … who’s going to be making the decisions for us but you,” State Rep. Maria Donatucci told the young crowd. “So, it’s so important that you know who you are — that you have that drive, that you’ve had that mentoring and that you’ve had that education to take us where we need to go. And that’s so important, it really is. We will be relying on you.”
Aside from living in the building three decades ago, Williams, the group’s president and founder, says she picked this location in lower Queen Village for the launch because she sees a particular need among South Philly youth, hoping to mend communities affiliated with domestic issues, violence, poverty, drug addiction and health disparities.
“I see the difference from when I grew up to now in South Philly,” she said.
While the coalition holds some of its work here, Reclaim U considers itself a “mobile” organization, cultivating confidence in children and their parents throughout the city.
While the group is still in its infancy, the group plans to kick off a five-week training program soon, which would focus on basic life skills — from tying a shoe to changing a tire, as Williams and other board members say such rudimentary abilities are not always enforced in minitory children’s upbringing.
“The concept is to empower and to inspire, but through an individual aspect,” said board member Zakiyyah Berry. “Retraining the mindset of urban people and trying to make them understand they are not victims.”
The life skills training session will encompass many concepts, like using proper etiquette, practicing self-love and cooking with affordable, alternative foods. There will also be a course strictly centered upon verbal communication, discouraging children to fidget on their phones and focus on interacting with one another verbally.
Another chief component of the organization is to not solely foster support among youth but to embed such visions in their parents and guardians, as families can also participate in lessons on financial literacy, such as filling out FAFSA forms or applying for a credit card.
Although the official organization sparked this year, board members are bringing years of experience and expertise, as their backgrounds are in everything from Boy Scouts of America to social work. Having networked in Philly communities for several years, they say it will not be hard recruiting mentees.
The very essence of the group lies in its name, as the goal of ReClaim U is to not necessarily create confidence but to unearth an integrity that was present all along.
“We’re trying to retrain the mindset of our people,” Berry said. “And we want them to reaffirm and reclaim who they are, who they can be, who they should be, and who they will be once they claim themselves.”
For more information on Reclaim U, contact president and founder Jameela Williams at (484) 535–4323.
Follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Reclaim-U.