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S.T.R.I.K.E. event looks to empower area youth

Ariane Williams and her organization, Image Affirmed, want to empower the youth in the Franklin community through a free event called S.T.R.I.K.E. that is set to run from noon-3 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Hayden Village Center in Franklin.

S.T.R.I.K.E. stands for “Self. Talented. Imaginative. Knock. Explore.”

Williams said the event’s purpose “is definitely to inspire and empower the youth through positive interventions.” S.T.R.I.K.E. is intended for ages 7 and older.

Now a teacher in Chesapeake and a Carrollton resident, Williams grew up in Franklin, graduated from Franklin High School and has kept her connection to the community alive and strong.

“It just seems like there’s not a lot for the youth, and just with the different things that we see that are going on in the educational system and just the community issues, it just felt like we wanted something to empower the youth there,” she said.

Williams, who will be hosting the S.T.R.I.K.E. event, highlighted what will be some of its many offerings.

“I know there’s been a gap in education since we’ve been home during the pandemic and quarantined, and so we’ll have tutoring services available for the students to sign up,” she said. “We have mental health services there, and so the students will be able to make vision boards on that day.

“We’ll be doing meal prep plans for parents, and I also have a culinary arts chef that’s going to come out to show young adults how they can prepare meals individually,” she continued.

Blackwater Regional Library will have a presence at S.T.R.I.K.E., offering free books and helping to encourage literacy, Williams said.

She noted that she has a friend with a mentoring/driving school, and youths will be able to sign up for the driving school at the event, receiving mentoring while they are students of the road.

“We’re also going to have some pop-up shops by some youth in the community that have their own businesses,” Williams said.

She noted an art gallery will also be present at the event.

“I’ll be doing a session on farming since I have the garden out there by the Hayden Village Center and just talk about cultivating your community with culture,” she said.

She stated that the Alpha Kappa Alpha organization will be present, sharing information about historically black colleges and universities.

There will be a food truck, providing food for a fee, and there will also be free hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and sodas available.

Franklin High School cheerleaders will be there to provide encouragement, and there will also be a selfie station, allowing youths the opportunity to take a picture representing who they are.

Williams said her motto is, “Affirming identity for the future.”

As she has undertaken the preparations for S.T.R.I.K.E., Williams said the outpouring of love from the community, including from some of its leaders and businesspeople, “has been really, really good.”