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and we don’t have proper youth
representation out here, but in-
stead of complaining about it, I
thought I should do something,”
he said. Williams-Maisonet is
starting a different kind of youth
group. “Telling stories is one
thing, but actually getting work
done is another. There’s a lot of
need for the youth out here. I
want to create a group that isn’t a
gang or known for starting trou-
ble. I want to create a group for
all youth in Rockaway to prepare
them for success, whether they
want to become an athlete or
politician or journalist. I want to
have this nonprofit there to help
youth every step of the way in
achieving their goals. It won’t be
political. It’s all about thepeople,
ran by the people, not just me,”
he said. He’s in the process of
coming up with an official name
for the group and filing paper-
work to claimnonprofit status.
Williams-Maisonet says the
group will be open to all races,
from all sides of the peninsula.
“We want a balance of people
from the west and the east side,”
he said. Young people from ages
13 to 24 will be welcome to join,
but those younger can partic-
ipate with parent involvement
and those older may become
part of a mentor community
that can help youth with things
like applying for scholarships,
jobs and providing training re-
sources. Early on, the group will
hold events like block parties, so
youth can get involved with their
neighbors and things like work-
shops where youth learn about
the history of the neighborhood
and gain a better understanding
of the community and its prob-
lems. “We want to improve our
schools, raise graduation rates,
raise the employment rate of
youth, we want to fix our parks
and neighborhoods. We want
to help the youth who may be
homeless. If you don’t have a
family, we’ll be your family and
get youon the right track. No one
will be turned away. We want to
make real changes,” he said.
Williams-Maisonet says the
group won’t have an office
space. “A nonprofit is grassroots
and you don’t need an office to
be involved. We’re going to be
outside all the time. We can’t get
all of Rockaway’s youth into an
office, but we can get them all
outside in a park.”Williams-Mai-
sonet will start recruiting over
the summer and hopes to have a
group established by September.
While working on launching
his nonprofit, Williams-Maison-
et is also gearing up to make a
documentary focusing on the
struggles of local youth in the
community, as well as failing
schools. He introduced his idea
at a Rock Soup dinner to try to
obtain funding. While his idea
came in second place and he
didn’t receive funding, he did
make a much-needed connec-
tion and was able to team up
with a filmmaker who will help
with the project. “We’re going
to start filming on July 1, so if
you see people walking around
the neighborhood with camer-
as, don’t be afraid to approach
us. Come speak to us about your
problems in the community.
We’ll be in places like the board-
walk and local parks, wherever
youthmay frequent. If interested
in being interviewed, reach out
to us by June 30,” he said. “We
want this to be big. We want it to
go around all of New York City to
put Rockaway back on the map.
We want to make sure people
are aware of the issues out here
so the people who have the pow-
er to make major changes know
what’s going on. This movie is
going to be vital to Rockaway be-
cause it’s going to create change
and I’m very confident in that.”
No matter what he’s doing,
Williams-Maisonet says he’ll
remain active throughout. “I’m
always working on something.
I’m working on my education so
I can graduate next year and go
on to a four-year school to study
business,whilestarting thisyouth
group and documentary and if
anything else comes to my head,
I’d be glad to do it. I’ll do whatev-
er I can to succeed and improve
my community,” he said.
Those looking to get involved in
the youth group, documentary or
just want to reach out to Jeffrey,
can email him at Jeffrey@rocka- or find Jeffrey
Williams-Maisonet on Facebook.
Continued from Page 14