This summer, youth participants involved with the National Stop the Violence Alliance, Inc.’s What About YOUth (W.A.Y.) initiative have been selected to represent the United States at the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference being held this July in Kingston, Jamaica. Jamaica is celebrating its 55th anniversary of independence this year, and youth in the W.A.Y program will be able to take part. Convened every two years by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the conference is an important platform in Jamaica’s strategic effort to meaningfully engage with Jamaicans around the world.

Youth engaged in the W.A.Y. initiative were personally invited by Trudy Deans, the Consul General of Jamaica, to engage in this culturally enriching experience and to discuss the Jamaican Diaspora with educators and students. They will perform in front of Jamaican dignitaries and other special guests, and conducting community service.

“This is an exciting opportunity for youth in our program to engage with their peers in Jamaica while representing the United States,” says Stephné Coney, founder and CEO of National Stop the Violence Alliance Inc., a non-profit organization founded in 1991.

“We have launched a GoFundMe page for those who want to support the students and this opportunity they have been given. The funds raised will go toward round-trip flights, hotel accommodations, and emergency insurance. This opportunity can change the lives of these young people. They need everyone’s support through corporate, philanthropic, community, and individual donations.” The group has also launched a t-shirt campaign called “Be Brave, Be Strong, Be Nonviolent,” which was created to celebrate non-violence and serves as a remembrance for all victims of violence. All funds from the shirts will go towards the Jamaica trip expenses.

Created in 2013, the W.A.Y initiative is a mentoring program for students in pre-K through 12th grade.

The youth participate in a workshop setting to discuss various issues, such as youth and gang violence, education, college preparedness, entrepreneurship, etiquette, physical and mental health, conflict resolution, media and arts-based education, and building a relationship with law enforcement. W.A.Y. initiative participants are also members of the prestigious Peace Troopers: A Youth Partnership with Law Enforcement Mentoring Program, which was established 1996.

To learn more about the organization and its programs, visit www.NationalStoptheViolence.org. To help make a difference for youth and support their upcoming trip to Jamaica, visit their GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/camden2jamaica.