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Tackling tough issues: Youth group hosts Rally for Humanity

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Noor Ali, 13, speaks about the common misconceptions that surround Islam during Wednesday's Pitt County Youth for Justice and Change Rally for Humanity. (Juliette Cooke/The Daily Reflector)

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Racism, health care, education and gun violence were among the topics discussed as a local youth group hosted a Rally for Humanity at the Pitt County Courthouse on Wednesday night.

The event was organized by Pitt County Youth for Justice and Change, which started in March of 2018 as a grassroots, nonpartisan organization centering on equality, according to adviser, Molly Holdeman.

More than 17 speakers, ranging from community leaders to students, stepped up to the podium to talk about issues that concern them and to laud the youth for their activism and community involvement. Close to 100 people attended the rally.

A wide range of topics were covered. Student Noor Ali, 13, discussed common misconceptions that surround Islam. Lauren Piner, president of the Pitt County Association of Educators spoke on school funding and the challenges faced by teachers. Kris Rixon second vice-chairman of the Pitt County Democratic Party, focused on health care for all.

Whatever the topic, the point was that youth need to speak up and work for solutions, organizers said.

“Events like this that are youth-led are super important because it gets our voice out in the community,” group President Ellie Edmonston said. “Each student handpicked one issue and they felt it was important to address.”

Edmonston, 17, is a student at the Pitt County Schools Early College High School. 

Gabby Loftus, 16, who also attends the Early College High School, became involved with the organization to shed light on problems that concern her, including homelessness.

“Homelessness is a real issue,” Loftus said. “Statistics are showing that more and more of the elderly, young adults and children are facing the reality of homelessness.”

Noting that some communities have gone as far as putting dividers on park benches so homeless people cannot sleep on them, she added, “It has become an absolute struggle to find a solution to this growing problem.”

Loftus said she feels the Youth and Justice group shines a light on issues society faces.

“It opened my eyes to problems in my community and it inspired me to make a change,” Loftus said. “I joined the group as it was lifting off, and seeing how much we’ve grown and inspired others as an organization has made me want to strive to be better for my community.

“This group is full of the best people I have ever met, people that I aspire to be like and people that I wish to make proud,” she said.

Holdeman’s daughter Ella, an eighth grader at The Oakwood School, also takes part in the group. 

For Holdeman, seeing young people like her daughter work for change makes her hopeful that change is possible in communities.

“We feel like with the community coming together, and becoming educated and aware, that we can find our common humanity and resolve some of these challenges that we face here in the community and in our country,” she said.

“Their focus is on equality and justice in schools,” Holdeman said. “There’s still a lot of racial segregation — even in classes — and they want to support the teachers, they want to make sure there are no guns in schools and try and prevent future shootings.”

Loftus said that she hopes the work of the group will inspire others to change Pitt County for the better.

“I feel like it’s important to know that (we), as a group, are working for the betterment of the community in Pitt County and create a better, more equal way of living for everyone — no matter what their gender or sexuality may be,” she said. “As a group, we demand for equality and justice to ripple through high school and college students. We wish to create an equal and just environment through reform and service.”

More information on Pitt County Youth for Justice and Change can be found by visiting pcyfjc.com

Their next meeting is on May 30 at 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 131 Oakmont Drive. 

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  Follow him on Twitter @Tylerstocks1987

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