By Tawanda W. Johnson,
Special to the AFRO
With a huge smile on his face, Terry Williams excitedly pumped his fists toward the sky, April 15, after cutting the red ribbon that signified the opening of the new Challenge 2 Change Center. The new space houses a mentoring program to positively impact the lives of youth in Baltimore.
Located on East Monument Street, the center represents Williams’ vision to keep youth out of harm’s way and on the path to success. Students, ages 7-21, will learn conflict resolution and gun violence prevention techniques, participate in STEM activities and attend field trips, among other activities. The building is full of inspiration, including posted messages: “I am a miracle,” “I am brave,” and “I am ambitious.” In the dance room, colorful butterflies adorn the walls.
“It is essential we stay relentless in creating alternatives for our youth that will lead them in a constructive and positive way of living,” said Williams, founder and CEO of the organization. “We have provided jobs and expanded our program to include game rooms, a dance studio, culinary arts, financial literacy, a computer lab, media for filming and a creative arts room – all to help our youth, their families and community.”
Affectionately known as “Uncle T” by the students, Williams started Challenge 2 Change in 2017, following the death of his son to gun violence. A Baltimore native, Williams also endured a rough upbringing, leading him to start his non-profit organization to make a positive difference in the lives of young people struggling in his hometown.
Williams is quick to point out that he isn’t alone in his dream to help young people overcome their struggles and achieve success in life. His wife, Marcia, is by his side, helping him along the way.
“There would be no me without her,” he said.
Ebony McClenny, who is a staff member with Challenge 2 Change, praised Williams and his wife for their dedication to helping community youth and their families.
“They both offer such a strong support system,” she said as she recalled how the couple helped her process grief following the death of her oldest son to gun violence. She added that they inspired her to start her own nonprofit – SON (Surviving Our Neighborhood), which offers preventative resources for youth and young adults to help them cope with mental trauma.
McClenny’s youngest son, Raymond Jones, 14, has been a participant in Challenge 2 Change for four years. She said the program has helped him develop into a strong, confident young man.
“It has gotten him out of his shell,” she said.
Jones said he is impressed by Williams’ vision to help youth who are in need.
“Uncle T envisions a big campus where students can stay overnight if they need to,” said Jones.
Williams said he is motivated to stay the course with his organization.
“I see the positive results in our returning youth, year after year,” he said, adding many say Challenge 2 Change is “a safe haven.”
One of a series highlighting agencies recently funded by the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund.