HAMPTON, VA. (WAVY) – The Hopeful Hampton ambassador program helps students make a difference.

Latiesha Handie, executive director of Hampton’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Opportunities, said the initiative was youth-inspired from events in the community among those ages 16 to 19.

“Regrettably we just lost a loved one between that age from Phoebus High School,” Handie said. “We had a candlelight vigil that the youth rallied around the family suffering from this. We said, ‘How can incentive your participation and activate your voice to bring about change not only for your peers but for our community as a whole?'”

Starting March 6, a group of 40 students will meet twice a week for 12 weeks at the Mary W. Jackson Neighborhood Center, setting goals and discussing the impacts of gun violence in the city.

“We are committed to this work,” Handie said. “We believe that some of the actions that are happening is a result of the loss of hope and hopelessness.”

Now students ages 16 to 19 can apply to work toward change and they will be paid $100 a week.

“We need to make sure that we are putting our hands on these young people and monetizing their support,” Handie said. “The volunteerism looks different in this season, we can’t expect them to come to the table without offering additional support.”

Hampton city leaders and police are partnering with the office push for change.

Just last week, John Davis made the switch from working for Hampton Police as a school resource officer at Syms Middle School.

Davis now works as the Community Engagement Supervisor for the Office of Youth and Adult Opportunities.

“That is where I got to see upfront and up close, the need,” Davis said. “Now, this an opportunity to have a bigger impact throughout the city.”

He will lead the Hopeful Hampton ambassador program. The weekly sessions include trainings from Alternatives, Inc. on civic engagement and mindfulness, health and wellness activities with Hampton Parks and Recreation. There are also parenting sessions with Hampton Healthy Families Partnership Inc.

“It’s a very unique program, it’s going to be very helpful,” said Joshua Goffigan, outreach specialist for the Office of Youth and Adult Opportunities. “There have been other programs that tried to do something along the lines of, we all try to come together as one.”

Hampton native Andrew Crosby said the office hopes to change the narrative.

“We have all of these resources that I never knew about,” Crosby said, “so I know that there are many people that don’t know about it as well.”

Want to participate?

Students in the Hopeful Hampton program will receive food, transportation, and a weekly stipend upon program completion. To apply, you must be a Hampton student aged 16 to 19. All applications are due Feb. 20, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. The application can be found here.