COOL Kids in Harlem Creating Community Volunteerism to Social Entrepreneurs

Today’s youth are faced with many options which often times steer them from positive choices in life. As a result, these decisions can often end up haunting them and damaging their prospects. With the economy remaining at an unstable mark, programs have been consistently cut back that would normally create activities to help our youth build a future.
Against all odds, C.O.O.L Kids (CK), which stands for “Creating Our Own Legacy”, offers an opportunity for youth to participate in community service, create their own destiny, and help support local social organizations.
“The purpose of CK is to mobilize youth and young adults to become more involved in their community through one of our pillars of service which include: volunteerism, philanthropy, public service and community development. By mobilizing young adults and getting them involved, we are cultivating social entrepreneurs,” states Genisha Wallace, President and CEO.
A Harlem resident and graduate of Temple University, Wallace started CK as a nonprofit organization based on the theory of “giving back” to the community.
“I did a lot of community service while I was in college, and once I graduated I still had a strong desire to give back.” Through her work in foster care, Wallace had an idea to do a holiday party for kids in Harlem. “We approached the local precinct, and through that partnership served 181 children and provided 300 toys throughout the Manhattanville Housing projects.”
The success came from the hands of young adults mostly under the age of 25. “We needed to continue to make sure that programs like this could exist and that kids were not always on the receiving end,” says Wallace. “These youth felt empowered to give back and create programs like the holiday party. This is how we came up with C.O.O.L KIDS.”
CK provides young adults an opportunity to serve, give back, have fun, and create new ways to volunteer. “Community service doesn’t have to be something that is boring or something that is mandatory, but can be about coming together and doing something positive.”
According to Wallace, CK is a social intervention effort that addresses issues on two levels.  On a personal level, young adults have a sense of feeling empowered to give back to their community, thus in turn developing character. And two, on a community level, needs are being fulfilled through service projects aimed at helping supplement organizations who may need assistance that CK can provide. CK offer organizations supplemental services to programs that already exist or have lost funding, “or just don’t have the resources to do extra things”, says Wallace.
To meet this demand, CK cultivates young entrepreneurs and people who just want to use their entrepreneurial skills to give back to the community. For example, they have young adults who are artists who donate paintings as a way to give back or make T-shirts for the community. CK also have young grant writers who are connected to nonprofit organizations and this has become their business by helping organizations write grants.
The greatest rewards, Wallace said, is “seeing a 7 year old organizing a park clean-up because they participated in the caring is cool curriculum through our workshops.”

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