Teen members of the youth group Project Infusion recently walked from Osbourn High School to City Hall for a scheduled 45-minute meeting with Mayor Harry J. “Hal” Parrish II. By the time they checked the clock, it had turned into a 2-1/2 hour rap session.
Many of the youth have faced extremes in their adolescence: broken homes, suicide attempts, suspension for fighting, gang recruitment.
“We wanted to make a connection with authority, and let the Mayor know what’s happening in the lives of his city’s youth,” said Project Infusion director Tina Murray.
When asked why not go to public school superintendent Dr. Gail Pope or a similar authority? Murray, who works as a housing inspector for the City's Family Services Department responded, “We just thought to go to the top."
Project Infusion is her personal ministry, one that has grown out of a summer youth program at First AME Church of Manassas. The Project also played an active role in the Youth Café at the City’s recent Neighborhood Conference.
“These youth are struggling with everything from cutting to human trafficking. We’re addressing those issues with tutoring, mentoring and mediation. Infusion means bringing back together what has been broken. The connection between the city and its youth has been broken. We want to bring together what is separate and that‘s why I felt to go straight to the mayor.”
After listening, asking their opinions and sharing his own adolescence – working in the family business, getting a pilot’s license at age 17 – Mayor Parrish wanted to know what the youth would take away from their time together.
“A relationship came out of it,” said Murray. “He told them, look, when I see you guys I’m expecting you to come up and say hi to me. The kids left with confidence. ‘I just sat and talked with the Mayor. We walked into his office. The mayor saw us.’”
Mayor Parrish is considering appointing a youth to one of the City’s boards. He exchanged e-mails and accepted an invitation to watch them play basketball.
Project Infusion is also responsible for a meeting between area youth and Sgt. Christian Jones, of Manassas, who upon a brief break from serving in Iraq back in October took the time to speak with kids at a city event.
Jones spoke about how joining the military right out of high school allowed him to support his family and change his life around."It changes your view of a lot of stuff in a positive way," he told the kids.
Jones, who admitted he was going down the wrong path in life, said joining the military "was a good thing to do" for him because it provided him with training and an education.
"Any branch of service gives you money to go to school; college, everything," he told the kids.
Project Infusion has regular meetings and is planning events, including a ‘70s party and a benefit concert, but Murray needs funding, volunteers and transportation to grow the program.
“I’m not speaking for everyone, but for some, we adults have fallen short when it comes to our kids. It’s no excuse, but we’ve had adults in our lives that failed us as well. It’s a vicious cycle. We’ve got to get our youth in front of leadership so they can see and hear what success really looks and sounds like. So they can see, they can change their mindset. They don’t have to stay in the same place.”
For more information, contact Tina Murray at ProjectInfusion@yahoo.com