New service organization priorities youth involvement

Youth for Kansas City is a new service organization that centers on youths getting involved through service.

by Ella Norton, Page Designer

Sarah Castle would describe herself as crazy. She’s a four-time Paralympian in swimming and basketball, a lawyer and now one of the founders of Youth for Kansas City, a new nonprofit for young adults that started in early 2017.

Youth for Kansas City goal is to connect youths from all around the Kansas City area through service projects.

“I guess I sort of started the concept in that all of the kids involved were kids I knew in some fashion and had spoken to about service, non-profit and our community and they had some interest in some way of making our community better,” Castle said. “The aim is to make change in Kansas City through service.”

Youth for Kansas City prioritizes being a youth-driven organization, something that Castle is very passionate about.

“I think that’s the  thing I love about this being a youth driven concept, the creativity of youth is so much greater than I will ever have,” Castle said. “There is a passion and love for life and hope that comes with being young that doesn’t fade away when you’re an adult but changes when you start to have bills and jobs and things to do. I love the thought that kids can be the catalyst for change in a world that needs so much of it.”

The youths involved in Youth for Kansas City make all the decisions about what type of events they do and what projects they want to start.

“I could easily commit to projects but I don’t because it’s the kids decision,” Castle said. “ We will get together and talk about ‘what do you want to do?’ Doing service and doing good things doesn’t have to be big and doesn’t have to be flashy. It all just comes down to, can we all together come to an agreement on some project that we want to do?”

Senior Louise Christianson is one of the 13 youth members of Youth For Kansas City.

“I’m really into service, I feel very strongly about that,” Christianson said. “Just giving back to people of lesser income or opportunities is important to me.”

Christianson found out about Youth for Kansas City when her old swim coach, Castle, reached out to her and told her about the organization.

“I think that one goal of Youth for Kansas City is to get the youth of the differently-abled community involved in the Kansas City community,” Christianson said.

Youth for Kansas City started off with an event in early October called the Kansas City Victory Tour, which benefitted wheelchair basketball and tried to bring a wheelchair basketball team to Kansas City. They then had a silent auction and a gala dinner.

“We greeted people and told them about us, sold tickets and monitored the auction,” Christianson said.

Youth for Kansas City is open to any young person to join with no size limit.

“This group has no limitations and I say the more the merrier,” Castle said. “I certainly think that it’s a great opportunity for kids around Kansas City to meet kids they wouldn’t normally meet.”

Right now the group currently has members from all around the Kansas City area.

“Getting kids who don’t know each other to care about something similarly is really interesting,” Castle said. “You hear different points of view, you hear different perspectives. We open up the dialogue, we talk about what our differences are, how we have different opinions and different experiences and can still be valued. I think having an opinion is important, but respecting an opinion is equally important. ”

Youth for Kansas City met every day during the summer and was in constant communication whilst they tried to plan the Kansas City Victory Tour.

Castle has always been driven to do service which she partially attributes to her family and school. She is now on the board for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association and before that, worked for a non-profit that did disability advocacy.

“I got a lot of success out of a lot of things in my life because other people were willing to volunteer and it’s like a pay it forward concept,” Castle said. “Somebody was willing to pay it forward to me, I should be willing to do it for somebody else.”

Both Castle and Christianson said they would like to see more awareness of differently-abled people.

“I would like to see more awareness of people who use alternate modes of transportation and a decrease in ignorance towards our population and more consideration of our needs and abilities,” Christianson said.

Castle said that for her, Youth for Kansas City is a form of disability advocacy.

“We need to get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations,”Castle said. “I sat down with a group of high school and college students and had a raw conversation about disability. The fact I’m in a wheelchair is not hidden from you, It’s just a fact and I can talk to you. We just need to have an open dialogue instead of acting as if there’s an elephant in the room.”

Christianson would like to see Youth for Kansas City spread, and hopes that one day it could spread nationally.

“I think it would be cool if it could spread nationally, not just in our community,” Christianson said. “I think it would be cool if more people nationally got in involved because I think it would be a bigger deal and we could do more.”