Encourage Me I’m Young

Restoration of Families: Through seeding the lives of boys and prevention and intervention activities

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The Story of Encourage Me I’m Young...

Inspired by the Journey of Calvin T. Mann, President & Founder

Written by: Heather Hetheru Miller

It was the summer of 1992 and I had taken a job as a childcare worker for my friend’s home daycare service. I was 25 with a three-year old son of my own, so I already had my hands full at home. Now, I was caring for 12 additional rambunctious kids. I think a lot of parents know that when you work with young kids as much as I was, you must become perceptive very quickly to keep up. It’s like you have developed superpowers to sense what they need as soon as they need it. In turn, they develop a trust in you to love and protect them from things that scare or confuse them. It was just like this when I took up my daycare job, and I made sure to take both their trust and my new role very seriously.

I was enjoying my job and the children I cared for, but I never could have known how the experience would change my life forever by beginning the journey of Encourage Me I’m Young. My experience working with those children from the heart of Ferndale, MI helped me understand exactly what we owe to the children of our communities. I learned that it wasn’t good enough to sit idly by and wait for children to need our help; instead, we needed to take an active role in their development. Getting from this realization to the youth development program EMIY is today was a long journey, but the most pivotal moment happened during the summer of 2004.

By that summer, my life had changed its course and I was employed by Northwest Airlines. I was making a good living for myself and a family that had expanded to include a new marriage and three kids. Despite how well things were going, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more for me to accomplish in this world. Because I believed myself to be a great amateur comedian, I thought I would try my hand at stand-up. Everyone knows that daily life presents the best materials for jokes, so week after week, I searched for material and inspiration in the local paper, the Detroit News. As it turns out, I had found my inspiration, just not for comedy. I had found the beginning for my life’s commitment.

“Time is all we have to change who we are.” It would be my first quote that I would share with others and one of the many epithets that Encourage Me I’m Young shirts would brandish in the years to come. At that time, these were the words that comforted me as my heart shattered reading story after story of our children being senselessly murdered. What had originally been a search for comedic material brought to light the ugly side of the world right outside my door. Kids were dying on main streets, at home, in abandoned buildings, in cars, and even at school. These were all the places where kids were supposed to be safe, yet we were failing them. The kids dying were the ages of my kids. The ages of the kids that I came to love in the daycare center years prior. The ages of kids that I coached in high school preparing to start their lives. These kids – OUR kids’ lives were lost, and we somehow were missing the urgency of their silent cries.

Everywhere a child died, I began to lay an EMIY shirt. I wanted them to know that I was listening, and that I would be the agent of change that heard their voices crying out for justice. We needed to change the narrative so that the mistakes that led to their deaths would never happen again. I heard their quiet pleas louder than ever that year, and every year since, I have spent my life obligated to do whatever it takes to prevent the loss of our kids. Encourage Me I’m Young was never designed to be an organization. It was designed to be an answer to echoes of slain children so that their deaths would not be in vain. Encourage Me I’m Young is a response to the wailings of parents, families and communities to do something NOW. Encourage Me I’m Young exists to encourage each child to choose a course of life for themselves and others. Adults who wear EMIY epithets know that we must do better by our children and choose LIFE for them. Make choices to protect them. Teach them. Prepare them. Believe in them. Because one day, they will be us, and our voices will echo through their actions long after we are gone.

In June of 2018, I laid the last of the 630 EMIY shirts place in memorial at the death sites of kids. The last shirt was placed behind the abandoned building of Cooley High School, for the loss of my niece, Jodi. By the end of the same year, EMIY had served more than 15,800 kids of all ages, ethnicities, and family dynamics. Our message and direction are clear: We will continue with urgency to prevent the lack of encouragement in children, families and communities. We are the change we need in our world, because “Time is ALL we have to CHANGE who we ARE.”

Encourage Me I’m Young!

About Us

Encourage Me I’m Young (EMIY) Inc., a non-profit 501c3 based in Detroit is a grassroots volunteer driven organization dedicated to legacy. We have supported, developed, and nurtured children and fathers to reach their fullest potential since 2007.

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