Youth Get Spotlight Saturday

Mary Nelson to Host second annual Youth Day Fair Nov. 14

She’s been featured on “Live! With Regis and Kelly.” Her back-to-school programs have attracted from across the country. Some of those events have drew as many as 9,000. Her vision, her role in the Syracuse community stretches further than just Palmer and South Avenue.

But, just like many other mothers living constrained in Syracuse’s inner city, Mary Nelson lost a family member to gun violence.

“I may not be able to change the violence in my community, but maybe I can do something to deter it,” Nelson, 49, once said on the morning show.

In 2002, Nelson lost her nephew, Darryl Patterson, after he died of gunshot wounds. After his loss, Nelson embarked on a mission to change the outlook of not only her family, but also the entire south side of Syracuse.  For seven years, she has organized a Back-to-School Youth Barbecue in August. The community eats for free. Companies and agencies give away supplies to children: pencils, backpacks, sneakers.

The first year, she says she gave away 850 backpacks. This year? More than 6,000.

Nelson helps run a youth center in Syracuse, the backbone for her mission.

“We have after-school programs at our youth center where kids can come in and get tutoring, help with their homework,” Nelson said. “We have programs in the daytime for senior citizens who did not finish high school or get their G.E.D.”

Saturday, Nov. 14, at the OnCenter Complex Convention Center, Nelson will host her second annual Youth Day Fair. More than 100 businesses are expected in Syracuse to offer guidance to the area’s young people about staying in school.

Nelson also invited activist and motivational speaker, Patricia Sherlock, to speak about violence and crime.

“My vision for both (the back-to-school program and the youth fair) is to take them to the national level so other cities can see exactly what we are doing here,” Nelson said. “I want to do exactly the same thing for their youth. I want to go far and beyond. I want to go all over, not just in the city of Syracuse.”
 
 
— Story by Sean Sweeney, master’s student in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications