By Tammy Scileppi
Alisha Johnson is dedicated to improving and enriching the lives of the many young people who live in her Jamaica community. As executive director/founder of Talent Youth Development Education and Entertainment, her job is to respond to their needs and support their creative endeavors.
While working in the nursing field most of her life, Johnson met talented youth of all ages and cultures and was inspired to help them realize their dreams. In addition, her role in helping her own four talented children reach their goals encouraged her to take on another role in the community.
“Since 2005, in support of my son’s talent in singing, I began to create, organize and host talent/fashion showcases in city parks,” she recalled. “I began to reach out to children in the neighborhood and found that the community was full of talented youth. I then started my organization in 2008, with 20 young people, and geared the workshops to help build self-esteem and motivate and encourage them to become successful members of society.”
She said she organized platforms that provided “a sanctuary for them to naturally express their creativity through art, music and fashion.”
Johnson has always believed that early adolescence is an exciting and challenging time for young people, and wanted to find a way to help provide opportunities, not only for her kids, but for youth throughout the city. That goal became a reality with YTDE.
“My not-for-profit is a program focusing on keeping our children in school, off the streets and positively motivated. Our mission is to implement new networking opportunities for our youth by bridging positive social outlets in the community and resources that lead to realistic results,” she said. “With parental and community participation, we create a family-structured learning environment that builds self-confidence and community awareness. Our consortium of interactive workshops provide a sanctuary where individual ideas, thoughts and talents come together in a structured setting geared toward the development of each individual.”
Johnson said her recreational and talent-show activities promote togetherness, support and positive social change within the community.
The popular program continues to be a success. YTDE has expanded its community relations and has been creating venues for children of all ages, giving them the opportunity to perform in front of large audiences.
Since age 12 Johnson’s son had a desire to become a singer and realized he had a deep passion for R&B music.
“TZ worked very hard to improve his vocals and songwriting skills, performing his first R&B single, ‘Bodie Role,’ in 2009,” she said.
“I felt that if my son could do it, there are many other children out here in Queens that should have the opportunity as well.”