BY C.S. HOWARD
We Are A.L.I.V.E. participants, leaders and board members.
We are A.L.I.V.E., Inc. is a scriptural and spiritually based youth development organization “committed to making a difference in the community”. A.L.I.V.E. is an acronym for Activating Life’s Individuals by Vast Empowerment and its mission is to be the light of the world and empower the youth in the community through education, activism and mentorship, by allowing the love of Jesus to reign, as they become a launching pad for the next generation.
A.L.I.V.E. was birthed from a deep desire to see change within our youth, said Tiona Wilson, its President. “It began as an assignment while I was in grad school that allowed me to dream concretely without limits. This vision came well to me before the name came about,” she said. The name A.L.I.V.E., she said, was placed on her heart by the Lord after a particularly stressful day in her former occupation as a children’s therapist.
In existence since January 2015 when it official incorporated, A.L.I.V.E. did not come about by happenstance. “So many people I admired and looked up to knew my heart, and encouraged me along the way – my parents, my pastor, my mentor and some of my closest friends,” she said. “I was prompted to start the organization because I felt as if our youth needed more. I was unsatisfied with the limitations in my former position and I wanted to create a space for youth to come to be educated, mentored, and poured into without limits. I wanted to feel the freedom of being able to pray with a kid who was struggling, and not have to shut that door.” The program is for youth in grades 8 through 12 and is facilitated by a team of dedicated, compassionate individuals who genuinely believe in the youth in the community. “Each individual’s strengths, experiences, and knowledge are strategically utilized in various projects and sessions to maximize the benefit of those in the program,” Wilson said. The curriculum is designed to encourage continuity and rapport building among the youth and consists of three phases. Phase I is based on education and includes nutrition and wellness, healthy relationships, communication styles, self-esteem and self-image, love languages, family values and goal setting. Phase II deals with activism – reciprocity, community service projects and team building activities. Phase III deals with empowerment – interview skills, public speaking training, gratitude, educational guidance and the successful dress. Depending upon the phase, there are four to six sessions. Once the phases are completed, a graduation ceremony is held but a continuation of the services is always available to the participant. Students are told, “this is for life.”
Another aspect of the program is called A.L.I.V.E Wellness known as Fitness Forward (#FitForward). “ This life - changing movement embodies the importance of personal wellness and the beauty of giving back to our community - or “paying it forward,” Wilson said. “We engage in a fitness workout – the “fitness” piece - which is then followed by a community service activity – the “forward” piece.”
In its short existence, A.L.I.V.E. has accomplished much. “We’ve helped prepare several youth from our area to go to college, served dozens of homeless citizens with toiletries, performed acts of kindness by purchasing meals at community restaurants. We collaborate with a local nursing home ministry and have given out school supplies to youth. And with our curriculum, 40% of our young leaders have improved academically.” For Wilson, her accomplishments are viewed from another source. “Saying “Yes!” to Jesus with a pure heart, has been my biggest accomplishment,“ she said. “ I look at all gains in life as a success, but some of the bigger ones that stand out for me are completing four years of D-1 basketball, graduating with my Master’s degree with a 3.9 GPA, and my most humbling and gratifying success was starting We Are A.L.I.V.E.” Getting to where she is has not been without obstacles and roadblocks. “Goodness YES! I ran into some oppositions, however, I’ve learned so much from them all! Obstacles and closed doors increase faith and trust in Jesus.”
Wilson is a graduate of Southeast High School where she played for the Seminoles girls’ basketball team. She made All State and attended the University of Texas-Pan American, now the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, on a basketball scholarship. She received a Bachelors degree from UT and went on to receive a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Alabama. She is currently employed by Humana.
A.L.I.V.E. will be sponsoring its annual fundraiser luncheon on Saturday, September 17th at Outback Steakhouse on SR 64, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Luncheon tickets are $15.00 each. For additional information about the event, email info@ wearealiveinc.org. The organization continues to welcome youth for its winter workshops in January, summer sessions and other community events. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and welcomes new sponsors, partners and/or donors.