Local non-profit Youth Oasis’ mission to help ‘written off’ young adults

Local non-profit Youth Oasis' mission to help 'written off' young adults
Buffett Image

Off of Acadian Thruway in Baton Rouge, there is a small brick church-like building. Inside a nonprofit carrying the weight of the world on its shoulders. 

Youth Oasis is a nonprofit working to help youth around the city who deal with homelessness and trauma. It offers services such as transitional living programs for 16-to 24-years-olds, parenting support and mental health services. 

During a Black History Month fundraiser the organization held on Friday, Executive Director Tekoah Boatner said, “For most people that want to start a non-profit, I’m going to spend the first 20 minutes trying to convince you not to.” 

The event hosted about 13 people. The group enjoyed snacks and Black history trivia as members sang songs and read poetry. 

Boatner said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization’s annual client roll went up from 120 to 250 people a year. She said this number has now steadied to 150 clients.

While nonprofits are tax designations and not business models, Boatner said the fact of the matter is that nonprofit organizations are required to “sell a product or service” before receiving funding for the services they provide. 

Boatner said this is why fundraising is so important. Organizations like Youth Oasis are required to find their own funding to keep the programs they offer going. Once the organization proves that the service works, they will be eligible for grants and funding from local and federal governments. 

Ariel Bellezer, the office manager, said he oversees communication between departments and maintenance at the several houses where the youth live.

“Sometimes, the kids come from broken homes and that mindset comes with them. So we have case managers and counselors,” Bellezer said. 

While the impact that Youth Oasis has on the community is self-evident, it still struggles to keep some of its services afloat. Boatner said the organization currently houses 15 young adults, where they used to house between 30 and 35.  

After losing one of its major donors, Youth Oasis has kicked off a large fundraising initiative. The goal is to to raise $150,000 in 150 days starting Feb. 23. 

“We went through three months of struggling. We went through three months of convincing each other that it was worth staying,” Bellezer said. 

With little funding coming in, Bellezer said, the organization struggles to pay utility bills and lost a lot of staff members. 

Amea Smith, a support specialist, said she has witnessed the power of Youth Oasis’ work first hand.

“I came here for services around last year, and they basically turned my life around. They got me a job up here, stable living. So yeah, Youth Oasis means alot to me,” Smith said.  

Mary Davis, the chief operations officer, said she always knew she was called to help people. Davis said that when she first started at Youth Oasis, a majority of the kids she worked with were in foster care. Over the years, she said, the dominant population has become kids in the criminal justice system.

“I hear everybody talk about ‘the problem.’ ‘Put them in jail, try them as adults.’ But these are children,” Davis said. “Who is responsible for protecting our children?”

The members of Youth Oasis also focus on mental health services for the people the organization helps. Boatner said the goal is to take away the stigma around mental illness, especially for Black and brown LGBTQ+ youth. 

Davis said she often hears kids say they have never been to a place or program like Youth Oasis. Colorful decorations and animal paintings fill the walls. She said she looks at the kids she works with like they are her own.

“Youth Oasis provides so many opportunities to the kids that have been labeled as problematic. I don’t take easy children. Give me the ones you’ve written off as a problem. Because those are the ones that will shock everyone who doubted them,” Davis said.   

Boatner said that for a lot of Black adults and youth, it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. She said this is why one day she hopes to no longer be in this line of work. She said she will continue to dismantle the system that causes kids to need Youth Oasis. 


About Mary Weyand 12339 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.