New youth group forms at Hamilton’s Booker T. Washington Community Center

She’s only 10, but Mamie Simms already has an idea what she’d like to do when she grows up. She aspires to be a city law director.

The soon-to-be fifth-grader at Richard Allen Academy is a member of the Youth Advisory Board created by the Booker T. Washington Community Center, and has been learning about things like college, careers, community service and philanthropy.

“I like that we get to meet new people,” said Simms, who so far has met Mayor Pat Moeller, City Council Member Tim Naab, and YMCA of Hamilton Vice President of Financial Development Kim Munafo. She has met Hamilton’s fire and police chiefs, fire crews, Miami University geography professor Kim Medley and city Human Resources Director Letitia Block, who previously was an assistant Hamilton law director.

Block’s description of her prior job left a big impression on Mamie, who said she enjoys “learning what everybody does” in their work.

As an assistant law director, “You get to help people,” she said. “You get to just see everybody.”

Miami University helped the program with field trips, in-house speakers, materials, transportation and snacks.

“It has been a great eye-opener, because we have kids now who look at government in a different light,” said Samy Broyles, director of the Booker T. Washington Center and one of two facilitators of the advisory group. “We have kids wanting to pursue even being president one day, or mayor of a city, a councilman, and lawyers, too.”

The group of a dozen in January attended a council meeting and later Naab visited to speak with the youths. In February, they learned about volunteering, along with Miami University’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, which focuses on literacy.

In March, the children learned about peace-building and conflict resolution with Dr. Medley. They also worked on role-playing with older students from the Hamilton Youth Commission. In April, philanthropy was the topic with Munafo of the YMCA. A lemonade stand was held to raise money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but it was rained out.

The children also met with local business owner Sherry Armstead, who is sending them to YMCA Camp Campbell Gard for a week in July. Their meetings will resume with the school year.

“So far, it’s gone really well,” Broyles said of the first-year program that was his idea. He wants to create a Y Achievers program for students in grades seven through 12, and hopes to start other programs that focus on career-readiness.

“With the Y Achievers programs, our biggest challenge right now is funding. We need to raise about $130,000, which would make this program totally sustainable, for multiple generations to come,” he said. “I feel the Y Achievers program, including this (Youth Advisory Group) will help bridge the equity gap between the disenfranchisement of folks, particularly of color.”

Those wishing to contribute can contact him at the Booker T. Washington Center at 513-785-2451, or Kim Munafo at the YMCA at

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