Kc Gammage is the supervisor leading the Community Leadership Development and Training (CLDT) project and has extensive experience working with Black youth and young adults, both in mentoring and offering direct therapeutic services/social emotional supports. As a member of the Twin Cities’ Black community and a mental health professional, she has lived experience and a unique insight into how best to convey the experiences of Black youth through data practices.
Community Leadership Development and Training is a 12-week, 135-hour, paid internship experience for BIPOC young adults 18 to 24 years old who are interested in becoming positive role models in their own communities, including progressing in their education, learning success skills, exploring careers in community building, and gaining cultural self-knowledge.
Two cohorts of 10 participants each are chosen through a rigorous application and interview process. The program begins with individualized assessment and goal setting. Following the completion of the program, individualized job placement and support is provided. Each participant is paid $18 per hour over the course of the program, with additional wraparound supports also being provided (such as laptops, gas cards, bus passes, drivers license costs, etc.)
Kc began as an intern with Change Inc. in 2015. Over the years, she has taken on her own therapy caseload and worked her way up in the ranks to become a supervisor for the Community & School Collaborative and a leader in the highly successful Crossroads mentoring program. She approaches that work with a lens of how we can share the experiences of Black youth and young adults in the Twin Cites as they connect to their African heritage.
As Kc describes, “CLDT is an intense curriculum to train the participants in topics such as mental toughness, keys to the streets/build your own vision, selfcare for people of color, family conflict and trauma, and wisdom.” The trainings that the curriculum is built around are presented by other members of Change Inc., including Corey Byrd, Jay Slaughter, Steve Floyd, Karina Kromah, and Jennifer Duran de Macario. There is also an independent study component to CLDT which enables participants to become certified in different programs and trainings though the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA). Other partners involved with CLDT include Agape Movement, the Council for Black Male Success, Turning Point, and the Cultural Wellness Center.
The idea for CLDT has been in the works for quite awhile. When The City, Inc. was still in existence, leaders came up with the idea for a workforce career pathway program. This idea came about because those working for The City, Inc. at the time noticed how few people of color were serving in disenfranchised communities. Kc says “They had a ‘you gotta go there to know there’ model. So, the thing that really sparked it was the idea that we work with these youth who are in these really transformative years. And if we pour into them and give them tools to change their family history, then one would hope that they come back and serve the community that they're from.”
Funded by the MN Office of Justice Programs, the Community Leadership Development and Training (CLDT) program kicked off with its first cohort in October and will wrap up at the end of December. A second cohort is set to begin in the new year. Taking place at Change Inc.’s office and community mental health clinic location in Northeast Minneapolis, the CLDT program builds upon the foundation we have built over the decades serving Minneapolis youth and young adults.
Building a program such as this, however, doesn’t come without its own unique set of challenges. Transportation is one of the hurdles many participants face. Not all individuals have a driver’s license, leaving them to rely on buses and brave the Minnesota winter weather while doing so. It’s also sometimes easy to forget our world has been living in a pandemic state for nearly three years. Our young people have suffered a lot with virtual schooling and motivation in general. Coming back in-person after the strange times we’ve lived through the past few years can be challenging, but very necessary at the same time.
There are also participants who are young parents that are taking part in CLDT. This poses a whole other world of challenges for them, namely, childcare. While talking with Kc about the program, a participant knocked on the door to ask KC to speak with her childcare provider to verify she was working and qualified for the daycare services. This is a first-hand example of hoops the participants are jumping through to be a part of this life-changing opportunity.
The biggest barrier, however, is time. “Ten weeks is not enough time. If we could train and pay them for six months or a year, these participants could do some serious damage — in a good way,” says Kc. She goes on to state how she wishes a program like this had existed when she was younger and says “It's such a delicate age group at 18 to 24, because you're too old to still be a kid, but you're too irresponsible and broke to be a full-on adult.”
The overall goal of the CLDT program is to both motivate young adults to pursue careers related to violence prevention, but also to involve their experiences in the overall policing/violence prevention efforts. Any member of a community that is experiencing persistent violence needs to be directly involved in collaborating in both short-term de-escalations and strategies for long-term systemic strategies. By encouraging BIPOC young adults to pursue and train in violence prevention career pathways, led by our staff that have been engaged in those activities for decades, this will help achieve lasting systemic change.
This goal related to violence prevention aims to help develop these young leaders, and give them skills to be able to navigate the trials and tribulations of their communities. In the midst of looking at their own selves retrospectively and their own trauma, they're also looking at the community trauma that's taking place, neighborhood trauma, inter-partner violence, and family trauma and violence. CLDT is focused on helping them advocate for ways to resolve the cognitive dissonance that exists in their lives and communities.
Where does Kc hope for participants to be when the first cohort of the program comes to an end in a few weeks?
“I hope they're connected to us [Change Inc.] somehow. I hope we deposit enough into them, inspire them enough. I hope we can get funding to put them in the community. I hope that they learn skills that they didn't have. I hope they grow in ways they didn't know that they could, and I hope they start to become the leaders that they are meant to be. Each and every one of those participants, they are so amazing and their potential is limitless.”
Near the end of talking with Kc, another participant knocked on the door. He asks Kc if he’s allowed to do the program again next year and shares how much he’s enjoyed it and learned from it so far. This touched Kc and made her very proud of what the program has become so far. It’s a testament to Kc’s, and all of the trainers involved with the program, work and care they’ve poured into CLDT. We believe that as participants in the CLDT program become community leaders themselves, the positive impact of the program will grow through the relationships they continue to form.