Student promotes local activism

While most GW students might watch CNN or peruse a copy of The Washington Post to get their fill of pressing social issues, junior James Jones does more.

Jones, the spokesperson for the Philadelphia-based Youth Action, handles the group’s public relations and tries to encourage young African-Americans to be more politically aware.

“Being actively involved in the community is especially needed in Philadelphia,” Jones said. There really are not that many positive role models in the city.”

Since 2003, Youth Action has aimed at addressing problems including teen pregnancy, domestic violence, homelessness and public health, through various events and projects.

“Youth to empower, enlighten and encourage young African-Americans to become socially, politically, economically and civically aware,” said Anthony Phillips, vice president of Youth Action and a sophomore at Bates College.

Jones became involved with Youth Action as a junior in high school. Since then he has handled the groups’ public relations and serves on the executive board which is currently crafting a five year plan to further shape the group’s mission.

“You couldn’t ask for a better worker, a better community servant, and a better spokesperson for our organization than Mr. James Jones,” Phillips said. “He is a visionary, he has a love for service and he has a mindset to do whatever it takes to see that his community – by and large – is improved.”

Ginene Lewis, a friend and former classmate of Jones, said during her last year of high school, a lot of Youth Action members were entering college and that the organization’s membership was low.

“We needed someone who was passionate and did quality work,” said Lewis, the organization’s former president. “James came to mind and we asked him to be the spokesperson.”

Lewis, a junior at Spelman College, said she looks to Jones as a role model

“He has been a brother and a mentor to me,” said Lewis. “He doesn’t do things for the recognition of himself; he does things for the recognition of the community.”

Over the past year, Youth Action has dedicated its efforts to specifically addressing the issue of homelessness. After extensively researching the problem of homelessness in Philadelphia, the group’s members volunteered in shelters and soup kitchens, held a toy drive and a second annual charity basketball game to promote awareness about homelessness. Members also spoke at the Education Works summer camp in Philadelphia about their experiences working with the homeless.

Over the next few years, the group said they hope to tackle the issue of public health and how it affects the African-American community. They also hope to start a junior Youth Action for 8- to 12-year olds.

“We just want to be really effective in the community,” Jones said. “We want to be a resource, give young people leadership skills and encourage them to choose the right path.”

In addition to working for Youth Action, Jones worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign his freshman year and was a legislative intern for Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). At GW, Jones was a committee correspondent for the SA senate and worked with former SA executive vice president Josh Lasky.

Jones has also expressed interest in bringing Youth Action to Foggy Bottom and working to better the lives of D.C. residents.

Jones said, “I would definitely be up to starting a GW chapter if I could find enough students who would be interested in tackling tough issues and being agents of social change.”

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