South West Orange Adolescent Yasheka Smith Gives Back to her Local Community

Her mother’s inspiration to give back to the less fortunate has been a drive for her to participate in fundraisers and retreats.

16-year-old Yasheka Smith has been volunteering for non-profit organizations since 8th grade. Photo by Ashley Kribs

At the beginning of her high school experience, fourteen-year-old upcoming freshman Yasheka Smith started devoting her time to be a part of two non-profit organizations at the STEM Innovation Academy of the Oranges in South Orange, New Jersey. Her willingness to show up to these fundraisers and retreats was all thanks to her role model in her family, her mother.

Smith’s guardians were born and raised in Jamaica in Westmoreland and St. Catherine. Both of her parents immigrated to Newark, New Jersey where Yasheka was born and the Smith family has lived ever since.

Smith took a deep dive into her mother’s contribution to her own country and her role as a Certified Medical Assistant at their local hospital. Smith recalled her mother’s greatest act was cooking up and collecting meals in a food drive with her friend to ship out to her friend’s home country in the Carribean Islands.

When asked to elaborate more on both organizations- The Mature Teens Movement and the Dorson Community Foundation, Smith believes that both groups are essential to the South Orange community.

“It’s about building community leaders, trying to give back to the community,” Smith said. “[Dorsen Community Foundation] provides tuition free college and career readiness to kids in the area.”

The Doreson Community Foundation meetings are held twice a week every other week and they are all about helping the people within the neighborhood. Smith mentioned that the program organizes two give back events every year. One of them is packaging food and handing it out to the people in need at the Newark Penn Station. The second event is collecting presents and donating them to kids during the month of December.

Smith sits outside the School Of Commuication & Media. Photo by Ashley Kribs

The newly invented Mature Teens Movement is a place for teenagers of all ages to share sensitive and dark experiences. Smith mentioned that during these sit-down talks, tears were released, but it made them closer than ever. The fundraisers are always promoted by the staff at the high school that Smith attends.

Working for both of these organizations all ties in Smith’s top three political matters that should be either brought to light or fixed: Immigration, Abortion, and Voting Accessiblity for People of Color.

“Immigration, because most of my friends and I are the first generation,” Smith said. ”So immigrants are a part of our (family) history. Immigration laws are kind of ridiculous at this point.”

During a debate about the topic of abortion, Smith argues that only females should have the right to say what to do with their bodies.

“Also, [we should] voting more accessible, especially for people of color,” Smith said. “Because for some reason it’s very complicated and it really shouldn’t be.”

Smith hopes that people of all skin colors can be treated with equality. Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Smith’s passions for social justice has been her inspiration for being part of these organizations.

“It’s confusing to me how people can think that it’s a debate or whether this matter should be taken seriously. These are our lives and I think people tend to be biased, but I don’t want to sound selfish when the matter doesn’t pertain to them.”

A collection of stories created and produced by attendees at the Montclair State University Summer Journalism Workshop.

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Ashley Kribs

Ashley Kribs

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