Friendship House graduates head to college, work force
"I could have been dead or in jail"
For release: Aug. 17, 2007
Taquilla Burns never dreamed she would attend college - and without Community Renewal in her life, she never would have.
"When I came to the Friendship House, it all changed. Kids Club was a new beginning for me," she said. "It helped mold me and mature me into the person I am today. I was just drifting along and then there was a great transformation."
Taquilla is one of more than two dozen young people who recently attended the first Community Renewal reception held in honor of graduates from the Friendship House Youth Clubs. They are an inspiring ensemble of young men and women who, through the help of Community Renewal, refused to let the challenges of an inner-city neighborhood keep them down.
"Thanks to the Friendship House, I have goals now and I am in college. Before, I didn't have goals. I was one of those kids who just stayed in the house," Taquilla said.
Taquilla returns to Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, this month for her sophomore year. One day she hopes to run her own business. But her first goal is to make the Dean's List at Hardin Simmons.
Drug deals, gang fights and violent robberies revolved around a young Carl Hines as he grew up in Shreveport's Cedar Grove neighborhood.
"People were going to jail and getting killed. I wanted to hang with the guys and fit in, but I realized that life was not for me," he said.
Carl found a better way of life after meeting Community Renewal's Yul Taylor at a neighborhood park. Yul played basketball with him, listened to him and earned his trust. Soon, Carl got involved at the Community Renewal Friendship House, a haven of hope in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods.
Today Carl is a dedicated full-time employee in the tire department at Sam's Club and he is a student at the SBCR Adult Renewal Academy.
"Yul stepped in at the right time. Without the Friendship House, I could have been dead or in jail," Carl said. "They changed that whole neighborhood. And they changed me. And now the young kids are looking up to me and I'm trying to lead them in the right direction."
Rebecca Johnson, 19, was also sliding along until she got involved at the Highland neighborhood Friendship House.
"When I started I was one of the most ghetto people you have ever seen. I got in my head that I can do better - and I did. I finished high school in the top 10 percent of my class. Now I'm at LSUS and I am working and I am trying my hardest," she said.
Brittany Doyle, 17, who attended Loyola College Prep, wants to be a physician. "One thing I learned in Youth Club was the importance of giving back to the community. I had more than 1,000 hours of service to the community in four years of Youth Club," she said. "We are the future and we need to give back. Life is short and we need to help people."
Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal is a nonprofit effort to restore safe and healthy communities through caring relationships. Founded in 1994, SBCR reaches at-risk youth through Friendship Houses built in impoverished neighborhoods, strengthens education through the Adult Renewal Academy, partners with The Fuller Center for Housing and connects caring partners who turn their neighborhoods into safe havens of friendship and support. For more information, go to www.sbcr.us.
Contact: David Westerfield, director of communications