The future is in the capable hands of the kids

By Carlton Koonce

Teen Mentoring Coordinator
the Durham VOICE

Dear Durham,

It’s with great excitement that we launch this year’s return of your Northeast Central Durham Community VOICE.

Teen Mentoring Coordinator displays a copy of the VOICE outside our newsroom at the Golden Belt campus on East Main Street, Durham. (Staff photo by Jock Lauterer)

We’re off to a spectacular start in this our third year and as your youth oriented community newspaper, we are looking forward to keeping you informed on the latest and greatest happenings taking place in Durham – with a take that only our local teens and college students can provide.

When the VOICE first launched in the fall of 2009, I and my classmates at N.C. Central University and at UNC-Chapel Hill were thrilled to be part of it.

In my position as the editor-in-chief of NCCU’s Campus Echo student newspaper at the time, I felt that we had the unique opportunity to be a part of something that could really make a difference in the community.

And make a difference in the lives within it.

As the months have stretched into years since then, the VOICE has become better known as a local media outlet very close to its readers.

With the support of community grassroots organizations, school leaders, city officials, and everyday citizens in central Durham, we have continued to embark on our journey propelling us ever “onward and upward.”

“Onward and upward” is a saying we have at the VOICE.

If I were to paint a picture for you about what it means in everyday terms it would be in the words of our spearhead, UNC-Chapel Hill journalism professor, Jock Lauterer.

Imagine the VOICE as a stream of water running through the community streets carrying the thoughts, emotions and neighborhood news via our youngest citizens to help quench the informational thirst of folks.

When these young people run into obstacles in their way like huge rocks, they don’t slow down and they don’t stop.

They simply flow around them and keep pushing on.

I am honored to work with the VOICE as mentoring coordinator — acting as the glue that brings our young staff and high school contributors, college mentors, university professors and the community at large closer together.

Teen Mentoring Coordinator Carlton Koonce works with VOICE intern Sharif Rueben of YO Durham. (Staff photo by Jock Lauterer)

Closeness in the community is what the VOICE is all about. We are working to break down the divides that come between us whether they are economic, racial, educational or even digital.

We want all of Durham’s citizens to know what a diverse and special community we are — a community that that embraces a long-storied past, an exciting present and a bright future.

And it’s a future that goes right back to these smart and energetic teens and young adults who deliver to you news about our community, our times and our voices in a perspective that you will receive no place else in town.

I’m a native Carolinian, and if you’ve been around a while you know that  Southerners can’t make a point without telling a story. So here’s a little story that illustrates my point.

I remember when I was growing up there was an elderly lady back in my neighborhood who would stop at the service station for gas. She had trouble seeing well, and being the observer that I am, I would always see her stop and ask a young person to pump gas for her.

Often these young people dressed in saggy baggy clothes, doo-rags and were covered in tattoos — the types I dare to say the average elderly woman would not stop to ask for help.

She would sometimes give them the cash so they could run inside to pay, and then she usually offered them a few dollars for their help.

From what I remember, not one of those young people ever accepted a dime.

One day she got me to pump gas for her, and as we chatted she told me something I will never forget.

She said that she didn’t understand why people always looked down on young folks — what with their loud music and crazy sense of fashion. She said that you always heard bad news about them and rarely the good things.

She told me that young people have never been anything but kind to her and that she believed the future was in good hands.

My friends, welcome to the future and welcome to the VOICE.

From what I have seen these past few years, the community is in good hands.