By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE - More than five years ago, Renee Jordan-Wyatt had an idea to build a positive environment for Fort Pierce youth from ages 5 to 25.
"I wanted to get them off the street and give them something to do," she said.
With that idea, the Fort Pierce Community Outreach Youth Program was created and since 2007 has helped hundreds of the city's youth by giving them a creative outlet.
"We focus on the performing arts," Ms. Jordan-Wyatt said. "The children demonstrate by way of dancing, singing, poetry and drama performances."
While the performances showcase the children, the children themselves are performing their understanding of important community messages.
"We teach them about HIV, AIDS, teen pregnancy, early dropout prevention and gang violence," she said.
The program has been so popular, three different age groups were established: Little Dreamers, for ages 5 to 12; Dream Reachers, for ages 13 to 21 and We Believers, for ages 18 to 25. The oldest group serves as mentors and leaders for future generations.
"I started five years ago when I was 12," said Devera Martin, president of Dream Reachers and a youth counselor for the group's summer camps. She will be a senior at Lincoln Park Academy in the fall.
"I sing and dance and do a lot to help with the community. It's more than something to do; it's a way to give back."
One of the group's biggest projects was spreading awareness about World AIDS day.
"Because of that, we were selected to go to Washington, D.C., to join the March Against HIV/AIDS," Ms. Jordan-Wyatt said. Twenty-seven members of COYP traveled with a larger group the third weekend in July to participate.
In Fort Pierce, the youth program stayed busy organizing and participating in a youth summit at the Fort Pierce Police Athletic League July 6.
"At our peace summit, we had a number of speakers talk to the children, including Donna Mills, St. Lucie school board member; Adam Fetterman, St. Lucie County sheriff's attorney; Nick Mimms, Fort Pierce interim city manager; Jack Hudson with the American Dream Factory; Chris Williams with Concerned Citizens, Bonnie Hill, evangelist; and Zella McDuffie-Smith," she said.
The organization is also keeping busy with its summer program, now in its third year.
"The kids don't want to go home," Ms. Jordan-Wyatt said. "The things they might not get at home they get here."
The program has become so popular it has expanded into a second location. The first location was donated by Miracle Prayer Temple, and is located at 2017 Ave. D in Fort Pierce. The second location is at the Pat Duval station, and was a group effort between the COYP, the Fort Pierce Housing Authority and the sheriff's office.
"The goal is to keep both sites as locations for after-school programs," she said.
Ms. Jordan-Wyatt said the nonprofit is successful because it runs with an all-volunteer staff, and uses donations from the public.
Currently, plans have begun for the upcoming Christmas on Avenue D celebration, and the group is looking for presents for children.
And Ms. Jordan-Wyatt likes the results she sees.
"I've always been proactive. We've done so much," she said. "We know that we're making a difference in these children's lives."
For more information about the Fort Pierce Community Outreach Youth Program, call Ms. Jordan-Wyatt at (772) 940-7525 or the main office at (772) 429-2599. All donations will be accepted.