Geneva Johnson is the founder and executive director of a youth service organization that seeks to build pride and self-esteem among young people in the inner-city through a wide variety of volunteer activities. “I live in the Northeast Bronx, which has been a hot spot for drugs and crime,” said Geneva. “Many youth are in gangs or on drugs and the rest of us are just held hostage to the violence in the neighborhood. I wanted to make changes in my community but could not find an organization that provided opportunities for youth to participate or get involved.”
So Geneva resolved to create her own organization. She found a mentor, took classes in fund-raising and budgeting, applied for grants, and with the help of a legal services group, set up a nonprofit organization called “Bring It On!!!”
She then recruited board members, a core group of five youths to serve as program directors, and a team of 20 active volunteers. The group has sponsored environmental projects such as a cleanup along the Bronx River, art and entertainment “youth jams,” and presentations on how young people can start their own businesses.
Of particular interest to Geneva is her “You Go Girl Go” project, which tries to help middle and high school girls avoid teen pregnancy, develop self-respect, and make healthy life choices. “My family has a legacy of teen pregnancy, and for many years as an inner-city kid this is what I grew up with and thought my life would be like,” she said. “I felt if I could have one program to change the lives of young girls, this would be it.”