Richardson worked at the Center for Teen Empowerment on Rochester's Genesee Street as a Youth Organizer. While there, he helped empower Rochester's teens to work together to bring change and make this a better community.
That work continues today.
Adem Herbert once embraced violence. The Center for Teen Empowerment changed his life. "I think different," he said Friday afternoon. "I don't think like I want to fight all the time, I got a clear head now."
Herbert is one of a dozen Teen Empowerment Youth Organizers hired by Executive Director Doug Ackley and his team. "The young people who are hired here work to look at the issues that young people face in their community, and the thing is, they know it best," said Ackley.
Youth collaborate with adults at the Center, but the goal is for teens to be the influence for other teens. "We use our talents and all types of things to communicate how we feel about things that are going on and how we feel about changing them," said Youth Organizer Emerald Wilcox.
Youth Organizers can best relate to teen problems like relationships, pregnancy, STD's and violence. "Having young people really utilize their voices to change the community to go out, to reach out to other young people, that's something that you don't see on a day to day basis," said Teen Empowerment Associate Coordinator Shanterra Randle.
Ackley said 300 people interview annually for the paid job of Youth Organizer. The opportunity to earn money legitimately is empowering. "I don't gotta be doing the wrong thing to get what I need, I can do the right thing and it would be better," said Herbert.
Youth Organizers bring their peers together with events like open mic nights. A compilation from Lawrence Richardson repudiating violence is on the Teen Empowerment website, entitled "An Open Letter to the Shooter." In one clip Richardson says, "Once I retaliate on him, who's going to get me? So I'm stopping the cycle. It won't be me."
Teen Empowerment Program Coordinator Duane Yansen said, "We have a lot of Lawrences out in this community and it's our job now to find them and help them be able to make the same type of impact that Lawrence made."
In death, Wilcox said she has been inspired by the way he lived his life. "It motivates me to want to push harder, to fight harder and to try to do my best to be a part of the change that we need in our community," she said.
Richardson's killer remains at large. Meanwhile, the Center for Teen Empowerment's annual fundraising luncheon is set for next Thursday at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. The luncheon is entitled, "It's Time to Grow." Ackley wants to establish a citywide presence through neighborhood based sites.
To get more information about the Center for Teen Empowerment luncheon, or to learn more about the organization, click here.