ORLANDO - Shanta Barton-Stubbs is the executive director and founder of New Image Youth Center (NIYC) in the historic community of Parramore in Orlando, Florida.
The NIYC, which began servicing the community in 2004, runs after-school programs during the school year and day camps all summer long, serving over 100 kids every year at no cost to participants.
It all started when she was 21 year old college student and her father moved his church from Orlando, Florida, to Parramore. Her self-described “culture shock” came to a head one day when she and her father were cleaning up at the church. A group of four boys were outside pushing a grocery cart in the middle of the street and watching cars swerve out of the way. Attempting to alleviate the situation she yelled out to them but only received curse words in response.
Rather than getting angry she came to the understanding that the kids just needed something to do. She invited them inside and they began to play Monopoly, which lasted for the rest of the day.
“I didn’t even recognize it at the time, but that's how New Image started,” said Barton-Stubbs. “Over time, word spread in the neighborhood and the youth found us. Then the community started to come to us after seeing the positive change in the youth. Often when you're looking to do something great, all you have to do is get started and the resources find you.”
Barton-Stubbs did not always dream of creating a youth center though, originally she wanted to be a SWAT team member or a movie star.
“I had saved $1,500 to move to Hollywood, and that’s the money that I began to use for the kids. I went to the pawn shop, I went to Walmart, and I began to buy board games. I bought a computer, paint, and posters.”
The NIYC has since built relationships with University of Central Florida, University of Florida, and even Rollins College. Because of this, their kids are able to receive one-on-one attention when it comes to academic tutoring. They also work with police departments, politicians, the school systems, the Parramore Kidz Zone, and more!
“We were all born to serve,” she said. “We’re constantly instilling positivity into our kids, reminding them of all of that they have inside of them. Different opportunities have been presented to us, and if they're not presented, we go and find them. We're taking our kids out of this whole hood mentality to let them know that your surroundings do not have to make you.”
The NIYC’s rise to recognition was not an easy one.
“I would find people and then others would just come and volunteer and become a part of what we were doing. At the time, we didn't even have money to pay them. I was paying all the bills out of pocket. I was working at night to keep this place open, and it just began to evolve into what we have now,” she said.
Continuing with servicing the community, great things are still to come from the NIYC.
“One thing we would like to see is our model in other communities all over the world. It may not be Florida, but little replicas of what we're doing to let every child know in every hood that they too can be the good,” she said.
Barton-Stubbs advises those who want to give back to the community to go to an organization who's doing something similar to what they want to do and ask for a mentorship. “Be willing to jump out there and do something without knowing what it's going to turn into, but knowing that if you begin to do whatever your heart is leading you to do, then the resources and the people will find you.”
The positive impact is made evident through the experiences of those who attended. 21 of NIYC’s kids have gone on to graduate from high school, 13 are in college right now, two have graduated from college, and one is currently getting his doctorate in computer engineering at Auburn University.
"Dr. Shanta Barton-Stubbs is dedicated to finding the good in the hood. She is a positive role model for the kids and has dedicated her life to the kids. Drop D No Limit Foundation 501(c)3 and New Image Youth Center's Dr. Shanta Barton-Stubbs have worked together on several community events. She is just an awesome person and an outstanding businesswoman," said Jimmy Williams, President of Drop D No Limits Foundation.
Dr. Barton-Stubbs has received the Martin Luther King Jr. award with the Florida education association.
Additionally, NIYC recently received $10,000 from Walt Disney World Resort through Disney Grants. With the funds New Image Youth Center will be able to produce one of their newest programs ‘NIYC Creates’ which will be in conjunction with NIYC making of the band. ‘NIYC Creates’ aims to develop student-driven learning opportunities for teens that promote creative expression, personal growth, and community connections. Students will collaborate to develop creative projects!
What started off as a group of young people playing board games has truly developed into a haven of possibilities for the Parramore community.
If you would like more information about attendance, volunteering, or if you are interested in donating to this non-profit organization please visit www.newimageyouth.org. All contributions are tax-exempt.