Youth Map Milwaukee is on a mission to make the dreaded “I’m bored” complaint parents get from their kids obsolete.
The project from the Center for Youth Engagement, 4850 W. Fond Du Lac Ave., aims to map 325 resources in Milwaukee that will direct bored kids to quality activities and agencies near their homes through a website and app, which will be complete by early 2014.
“It should be just as easy for a young person to find something that is positive to do as it is to find some things that are negative,” said Reggie Moore, the project’s leader and Center for Youth Engagement’s founder and senior strategist.
The mapping initiative, launched July 31, comes at a time when Milwaukee has seen a string of shootings.
Eighteen people were injured in shootings from Aug. 2 to 6 alone, while a 14-year-old boy was killed in a shooting that also injured a 15-year-old boy, a 17-year-old boy and a 22-year-old woman on July 26.
“I’m fully behind supporting this initiative because I know the impact it will have,” said David Bowen, a Milwaukee County supervisor, who represents the 10th District. “We’re seeing so many violent incidences … We could save a lot of young people if they just knew some of the information.”
Moore has surveyed middle school and high school youth about their out-of-school time and found that most do not participate in youth programs because they don’t know what is available.
“I think our community is constantly surveyed and constantly researched by academia but not provided the research or even the tools to access it,” Moore said.
Youth Map is part a larger project being funded by the Helen Bader Foundation and researched by the Center for Youth Engagement that will focus on creating collaboration between youth-serving agencies. The Youth Map initiative comes from iMapVentures, an organization that works to map youth resources in cities around the world.
“In Milwaukee, there are a lot of great things happening,” said Maria Vento, the vice president of programs and partnerships at the Helen Bader Foundation. “If you could weave them together they’d be more powerful.”
Vento said right now parents are calling organizations and asking what their kids can do in the summer. The youth map will help kids easily find programs and services that they are interested in through special search filters like price, location and hours of operation. Healthcare, sports, education, art and music resources will all be included.
“We want them to do what they think is cool based on their interests,” Moore said of the map’s future users.
Bowen is also collaborating with the Helen Bader Foundation and Moore on the larger out-of-school initiative.
“They’re sitting at home bored and they’re not being directed to those resources that could show them their purpose and make them great people,” Bowen said. The app especially will allow youth to “have positive resources in the palm of their hand.”
“On a Google search, you get 2,000 responses and some of them can be old; some of them can be in Pewaukee,” Moore said. “It’s important we have reliable, up-to-date information on resources that are close.”
The map will also allow the Center and others to see where youth services are lacking, which is the first step in getting quality organizations to expand to those places.
James Logan, project manager for iMapVentures, said the mapping is handled differently across the country and around the world.
In Milwaukee’s case, teams of four to five high school volunteers from Urban Underground, 4850 W. Fond Du Lac Ave., and Hope House of Milwaukee, 209 W. Orchard St., are using existing youth resource directories and lists to call youth agencies and get up-to-date information on their programs and services for the map.
Volunteer mapper Imani Ray, 17, has already learned about new resources through her phone calls.
“There are a lot more than just the organizations I’m familiar with,” Ray said.
She is confident her peers will use the app once it is made clear it is a resource and not a game.
“It’s such a unique idea,” Ray added.
The mapping has an added bonus: job-readiness preparation. Logan said it builds skills in customer service, data entry, team building, phone etiquette and interviewing. Moore agrees. He has already seen the impact the project has had on his volunteers.
“They’re students who are definitely not used to cold-calling. They’re building confidence and communication skills,” he said. “Most of them find it fun … It’s a really cool opportunity for them to work and engage with adults in an important way.”
Ray said the mapping project can be difficult but nothing she can’t get used to, especially when she looks at all the information she’s helped gather.
“You can clearly see that you’re making an impact,” Ray said.