The latest issue of The Urban News has two stories I’d like to share. The first, my monthly piece for Buncombe County, is a feature on Positive Changes Youth Ministries’ college readiness program. The second is about the newly opened Forever Living Clothes Closet. I had the pleasure of meeting founder Ms. Stephanie the other day, and I admire her heart and initiative. Read both stories below.

Positive Changes Promotes College Readiness

“I work with a lot of teenagers,” says Dewana Little of the nonprofit Positive Changes Youth Ministries. “Back in March when many high school students were getting college acceptance letters, these teens told me that out of all of their friends, no one had applied for college.”

“That was shocking to me and I wanted to figure out why,” Little explains. “After talking to different teenagers to figure out why they didn’t apply for college, I found that most of them didn’t see it as possible.”

Armed with this awareness, Little, with assistance from Sherman Williams of UpFront Management Sports, Shuvonda Harper of the Residents’ Council, and her father Calvin Little, made an ambitious plan to take a group of young people on a tour of college campuses.

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30 curious 10th, 11th and 12 graders visited 15 colleges in August. Photo: Tony Shivers

“This goal of the trip was to change the mindset from, ‘College is not possible due to our socio-economic situation’ to “College is possible,’” Little states. “That’s what the trip was about, changing the mindset not only for the kids but for the parents and the other people that they’ll speak to about the trip.”

In August, Little, Harper, Tony Shivers, and other chaperones took 30 curious 10th, 11th and 12th graders on a five day trip during which they visited 15 colleges. Over half of those students live in one of the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville’s developments.

“The trip was targeted to people who would not otherwise be able to have the opportunity to visit colleges,” Little said. Financial support for the trip was provided from a variety of sources including a Buncombe County Tipping Point Grant, and gifts from community members.

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Positive Changes connects young people to tutors and menros who can support their college ambitions. Photo: Tony Shivers

Visiting colleges helped to tip the scales towards positive outcomes for these students. “There were kids that came to me during the trip that said, ‘You need a 2.5 GPA to get into this college and I really like this college,’” Little shared. “That’s what they came back from the trip focused on, raising their GPAs so they can be college ready. That’s huge.”

In addition, Little pointed out, “the colleges talked about community service, and how it can strengthen your college application. We are working with three nonprofits so our young people will be able to add that experience to their college applications.”

Significantly, the trip marked the launch of Positive Changes’ college readiness program. The organization will connect young people to the resource grid of tutors and mentors who can support their college ambitions. “This is just the beginning,” Little says of the trip. “The interest and excitement is there, so we want to keep moving forward.”

“We’re trying to set them up for success as much as possible.”

Want to Support Positive Changes? 
Positive Changes Youth Ministries is looking for tutors, mentors and speakers to share about their careers. If you would like to volunteer, email 
dewanalittle@positivechangesym.com or dewanalittle@yahoo.com or call (803) 201-2284.

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Preparing the clohes closet are volunteers Linda Jackson (top back), Patricia Boden (center), and (front) Stephanie Maewether, founder of the Forever Living Clothes Closet. Photo: Urban News

Forever Living Clothes Closet Opens

Forever Living Clothes Closet celebrated its grand opening at the Arthur Edington Center (133 Livingston Street) to benefit residents of Asheville Housing who are actively seeking employment.

The Clothes Closet will provide residents with appropriate attire for job interviews.

“During a job interview first impressions are lasting, and applicants are judged in part on their appearance,” said Clothes Closet founder Stephanie Maewether. “In addition to business attire, we will assist families with clothing in cases of emergencies. The clothes closet is a nonprofit venture and will not charge for an outfit. Proof of some type will be required in order to get assistance. My prayer is for this closet to remain open and functioning for as long as the Arthur Edington Training Center stays open.”

The Clothes Closet will be open each Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; donations will be accepted on Monday only, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Once the project is up and running, Maewether will seek additional volunteers.

For more information about the Forever Living Clothes Closet, email Stephanie Maewether at: smaewether@gmail.com or contact the Arthur Edington Center at (828) 239-3513.

Note: Ms. Stephanie explained to me that the name “Forever Living” is in honor of her son who passed away. The clothes closet is one beautiful way she is carrying on his memory.