Project Sawubona (“I See You”) by Najeah Tornes

On March 17, 2017, the YEP’s (Youth Empowerment Project) hosted “Project Sawubona,” inspired by a Zulu word meaning, “I see you.”  As YEPs, we invited students from other Muskegon school districts to come out and support the community of Muskegon.

We had planned to clean up two areas of the Muskegon community, cleaning up garbage and tidying up public spaces, but due to the weather (there was a blizzard that morning!)  we had a change in plans. Instead, we helped Kids Food Basket program, a program where volunteers make sack lunches for the students of Nelson and the Heights elementary schools to send home with students from struggling families so they can have an evening meal. They put a cool twist on it with colors and designs on every bag, so each and every student can have something positive every day.

Thankfully, a lot of our peers came and supported us from all different schools and areas such as Oakridge, MCEC, Muskegon, Western Michigan Christian, Orchard View, Muskegon Covenant Academy and Muskegon Heights. First, we all had breakfast and designed the lunch bags and had positive bonding time with our peers. We also had an activity where we had a discussion about the positive and negative going on in our community and ways we could make it better.

After both of those activities, we went to Muskegon Heights High School and had a rally where outstanding talents and amazing acts of courage were shown. Keyvon (a YEP) danced boldly and amazingly, and Ms. Charlotte (YEP Director) sang gracefully.  Wonderful things happened that day, but the most courageous was this: three boys from Muskegon Heights High School came up on the stage in front of everyone and shared what their school and city meant to them. Then, they asked for help from us, to get other people to see the Heights the way they do.

This was my first community project with YEP,  and I was inspired by all of my peers. It was refreshing to know that other people felt the same or had similar feelings and thoughts as me regarding my community. After this experience, for the first time in my life, I believed that we can actually change the community we live in and maybe even the world.


Najeah Tornes is a member of our Youth Empowerment Program, which provides neighborhood youth with leadership skills, volunteer experience, and college/work readiness.

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