Bakersfield Southside Hosts the Wendale Davis Foundation Leadership Conference
More than 200 teens, in free event T-shirts, packed the sanctuary of the Bakersfield Southside church Feb. 25 for the third annual leadership conference sponsored by the Wendale Davis Foundation.
Counselors at 22 high schools received invitations to the event. Limited to 20 students each, the schools included continuation school for kids expelled from high school or for credit recovery, court schools and group homes.
The ambitious schedule included four rotating workshops — HIV/AIDS Awareness, Gang Intervention, Life Skills, and guest speakers. Information booths lined the walls of the fellowship hall. The California Employment Development Department for youth ages 15-24, School of the Arts, the Fire Department, and area colleges were among the organizations present. The event closed with keynote speaker Robin Robinson, an area youth pastor. Lunch was also provided.
“Now I know for sure what to do,” says 15-year-old James Cherry about his future.
For 13-year-old Kenneyetta Smith, the most meaningful workshop was Life Skills. “The women talking about their past, I wouldn’t want to go through what they did. And I wouldn’t want my kids to go through what I have.”
Linda Cobb, school staff member, says, “I got so much information, vital information, in each session. I am 50 years old, and I learned a few things. I am grateful.”
“There is a seed in everybody to change. Individuals need to step in,” says Wesley Davis, WDF founder. With multiple week night programs, plus annual events, Davis depends on volunteers to staff, mentor and teach at-risk kids who take part in the various opportunities.
Lynnetta Jefferson, a high school English teacher who works with Davis, volunteered to help coordinate the event. She also participated in the Foundation’s mentor program. “We do a comprehensive job of reaching young people where they are. All of the people involved are selfless,” she says.
“Just seeing the state of the youth in our community, they are like sheep without a shepherd, they are putty in demons’ hands. When I look at what we’ve done today, it brings tears to my eyes,” says Kevin Rhamie, Bakersfield Southside church pastor, WDF board member and volunteer. “Children will be saved because of what they’ve learned today — saved from destruction. I’m doing something that Jesus would have done.”
Wendale Davis Foundation
A non-profit organization with the mission to educate, motivate and rehabilitate at-risk youth and their families through counseling, family support, social interaction, and mentoring. Programs include:
- Homework club/tutoring
- Group mentoring/Friday night life
- Individual mentoring
- Athletic training
- Free tattoo removal
- Substance abuse treatment opportunities
- Family support and assistance
- Prison visits for the reality of incarceration
- Annual basketball tournament
- Annual peace march for lives lost by violence
- Free summer day camp
- Annual talent show (fundraiser)