Youth programs a priority for new Wilm. City Councilman Turner
This week and next, we’ll meet the newest members of Wilmington City Council. Featured first is Va’Shun Turner, Wilmington native and councilman for the 5th District.
Turner feels strongly that more needs to be done to empower youth in the city’s most dangerous communities.
Turner says crime won’t go down until kids have something productive to do as an alternative to picking up a gun.
Turner has mentored and volunteered at the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center and the Hilltop Lutheran Community Center, but says both have gone downhill since his youth.
When he attended programs there, Turner says he found people he could count on - like Hilltop’s Jea Street. Turner says he was a father figure.
“He was tough. You know, he was a no-nonsense type of person," Turner said. "Jea was the type of person if you got in trouble in school you had to make sure you told him every situation before he went in there to advocate for you. Then you had John Shehee at William Hicks Anderson Community Center. He was more laid back, he was more calm and cool. But once he did get upset you knew he was upset. So those types of styles you kind of grab a piece of all of that and put it in with you. I can speak for myself, I think I have.”
Turner wants community programs to be more centralized, citing Wilmington’s Community Services building as an example.
New Mayor Mike Purzycki mentioned the “Hicks” Anderson Center in his inaugural address, and a 2014 study of the center under Dennis Williams’ administration recommended $23.5 million in renovations of that building - which has seen none since it was built in 1972.
“We just gotta stop disabling our kids," Turner said. "We put a crutch on em, and then they just go ahead and use that crutch.”
Turner says lack of transportation shouldn’t be an excuse, and says the city should find innovative ways to address it: like having mentors walk kids home.