Dreams flourish in a CRI Friendship House

Aaliyah Burns dreams of being a doctor.

Only 12 years old, she is one of several Friendship House youth who recently participated in a six-week medical careers program. A seed was planted there and Community Renewal has been helping to nourish that dream ever since.

That’s one important facet of our work – connecting people, changing lives and then, as a result, transforming communities into places where boys and girls from all backgrounds can enter medicine, business, law, engineering and many other professions. We help them become confident in their goals and competent in their ability to reach them.

“I want to go to Northwestern State University and get my diploma and become a doctor because I want to help other people,” said Aaliyah, who started in the Highland Kids Club several years ago and who is now active in the Youth Club. Each of the five CRI target neighborhoods in Shreveport and Bossier City has two Friendship Houses, one geared toward teens and the other toward children.

“If I didn’t have Youth Club, I would be sad because I would be bored at home. And I would be more uncomfortable around other people if I had not been in Club.”

Operation Hope Director Deidre Robertson, who helps the youth focus their sights on college and career, said the Friendship House helps them find their purpose and develop into responsible adults.

“I’ve seen Aaliyah blossom and open up and get more involved. The Friendship House has removed the shyness barrier for her,” Deidre said.

“One of my biggest goals here is for us to raise independent, diverse students equipped with the skills they need to become productive, self-sustaining adults. These kids are just like our own. It’s an extended family here.”

Like other students in Friendship Houses across the city, Aaliyah participates in after-school educational activities, team-building, arts programs, community service projects and more.

“Youth Club has made me more confident and more mature. It’s just awesome to be here. They help us with our homework and that helps me pass every class,” she said.

“I enjoy coming to Youth Club because it’s like taking an adventure. I get to know people and make new friends. We enjoy being together. Youth club is like my family.”