Young people across Toledo have united to create a colorful forum for peace and justice — the Youth Visions Reflection Park. The opening of the park will take place 1 p.m. today in Wilson Park in North Toledo.
The park was planned and built, and will be maintained by the youths of the community. Already, these young people have built a walking path and reflection benches, and helped install murals throughout the park.
The park is designed to serve as a peaceful gathering place for neighborhood youths, as well as an outdoor gallery, a recreational space, an educational field-trip site, and a stage for showcasing the talent and leadership of young Toledoans.
Mostly members of Toledo’s 2014 YouthBuild program built the park. Lorna Gonsalves, the group’s project leader, said about 20 young people volunteered on the park.
YouthBuild is a job-training program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is open to people from ages 18 to 24 who live in Lucas County, who do not have a high school degree, and are either under-employed or unemployed. John Page, a youth specialist from YouthBuild, said that he met Ms. Gonsalves through a mutual friend and she began to mentor the YouthBuild students.
“Part of our program is community service, and the students want to give back to the community,” Mr. Page said. “They wanted to make [Ms. Gonsalves’] vision a reality.”
Several other community programs got involved with the creation of the murals for the park. Organizations such as the Youth Opportunities Program, the Toledo Police Department, the Neighborhood Association of North Toledo, Adelante, and the Teen Outreach Program all contributed ideas, time, and effort.
The murals in the park may look familiar. The Creative Peaceful Resistance program has already made murals with the help of local artists. The murals are on the Cherry Street Mission building, in the Juvenile Detention Center main lobby, in the Summit YMCA Youth Center, and in the Kwanzaa Park.
Ms. Gonsalves created the program, originally called the Community HeARTbeats Program, as a part of the Human Values for Transformative Action organization, of which she is the founder and executive director.
“I developed CPR as a means for urban youth to peacefully protest injustices and use creative expression as a way to share their concerns and visions of hope with the public,” she said.
Ms. Gonsalves recognized a need for programs like CPR in the aftermath of the riots that occurred in 2005 after a group of neo-Nazis tried to march in Toledo. Through the CPR approach, young Toledoans have created murals in recent years that depict their thoughts and frustrations.
The murals that will be placed throughout the park have names that reveal the main concerns of Toledo’s youth, including “Rising Above Bigotry,” “Calling for Teen-Sensitive Policing,” “From Chaos Comes Clarity,” “Youth Wisdom,” “Children Need Families,” and “Rescue Youth.”
The park, which will be within Wilson Park, already has furthered Ms. Gonsalves’ original goals.
“Through the process of building the park, our youth have developed a great sense of purpose, pride, and self-worth and that is a great start,” she said.
Contact Kathleen Ashcraft at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.