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Brooklyn Park builds opportunities for youth through the arts

(Courtesy of Zanewood Recreation Center)

Zanewood Recreation Center - also known as “The Wood” - is working to serve the young people of Brooklyn Park, and build a stronger community in the process. The center holds youth development programs, outreach, community service, and youth mentoring opportunities.

The city’s arts and engagement specialist Tashawna Williams says their main goal is to expose youth and young adults to art. By providing access to different art classes, mediums, and workshops she believes the center can bring people together.

“I always try to tie in arts with wellness, because if we don't have a healthy environment, how can we continue to move through our day-to-day struggles, or be able to engage socially with others?” reflected Williams. “Our hope is just at the end of the day to have our youth, our families, our community, being healthy, being hopeful and with a peaceful future.”

Williams says building a stronger community is a key part of Zanewood’s work.

“We want folks to come together throughout all that we do, whether it's an art activity or it's a back-to-school barbecue or a basketball tournament. Our goal is to bring people together, in hopes that people can walk away being healthy and hopeful,” said Williams.

One Zanewood project is ‘The Wood’ podcast. The youth-led podcast was created to uplift young voices and create a space where they can talk about issues in their community from their own perspective. Topics include friendships, mental health, and coping with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is fully funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“We've had students from Osseo High School, from Park Center High School, some from Northview Middle School - we try to recruit kids from all over,” said Williams. “Not only is it a way that they can share their perspective on life but it’s also a financial opportunity for them to be able to get paid... we always want to make sure that we are paying our youth for the time that they do spend with these types of opportunities, but also creating a career pathway for them.”

Williams considers her role to be part activism and part advocacy. In her 20 plus years in community engagement she says she’s been able to listen to and survey youth needs and build programming that serve those needs.

“And as long as we continue to offer them…opportunities, and listen to what they need, I think that we have a very hopeful future,” said Williams.

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