I always find it difficult to narrow down the stories I write for NNS to my favorite of the year. I truly love many of them. This year, I am choosing a story I wrote at the beginning of the summer about the work grassroots organizer Andre Lee Ellis is doing to empower black boys and young men in the “We Got This” garden at 9th and Ring streets.
In the spring, Ellis told me that he planned to expand his literacy program, started with a Little Free Library in summer 2017, to all children and adults who wanted to come to the garden on Wednesday evenings. It is one of many pieces I have written about Ellis since I met him in the summer of 2012 and wrote my first story about his contributions to the wellbeing of his community — a Christmas-gift giving project that he and a young man from the neighborhood carried out that December. He founded his summer youth mentoring and employment program, “We Got This,” in summer 2014.
I love this story because it highlights Ellis’ ever-expanding aspirations, as well as those of the community of supporters he has built in the 53206 ZIP code. It speaks of the beauty of Milwaukee summers, city neighborhoods and youth, and the power of caring for one’s neighbors. It is a tale of what any one of us might do to improve lives in our communities.