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Local group helps students find college opportunities

The six volunteers who make up Youth Uniting from Neighborhood Empowerment mentor seventh through 12th grade students to prepare them for college.

“A lot of children finish high school, but they don’t know what they’ll do next,” said member Ashanti Wright.

YUNEity offers students assistance in filling out college applications and helps them learn about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and find free opportunities to take the ACT, said YUNEity CEO Jasmine Ducre. Mentors hear each student’s goals in life and guides them in the right direction, Ducre said.

There are no qualifications or applications needed for children to receive assistance from a mentor, Ducre said. Anyone who wants help can reach out to YUNEity.

YUNEity has mentored five to ten kids each year since the group formed locally about four years ago, Ducre said. The organization formed because members saw a need in the community, Wright said. Member Desmon Stubbs said it is important to give kids positive role models. After participating in YUNEity, students sometimes take their future more seriously and think more about their career opportunities.

YUNEity also holds an essay contest where the winners receive gift baskets with school supplies and t-shirts before they head to college in August, Ducre said. The most recent contest winners are Haley Quinn, who will attend Jones Community College and Mya Richardson, who will attend Pearl River Community College. The two girls wrote essays about what inspired them to graduate high school.

Along with mentoring kids, YUNEity hosts community events like skate nights and an upcoming Back to School Extravaganza on Aug. 3 at 10 a.m. at J.P. Johnson Park, Ducre said. Events have become more consistent and seen better community support and YUNEity activities have increased in size and frequency.

The Back to School Extravaganza will offer free backpacks, school supplies, food and activities like waterslides, basketball games and volleyball, Ducre said. The event will take place at J.P. Johnson Park to make it accessible to children without transportation, Ducre said.

Anyone interested in sponsoring the event or donating to YUNEity can contact Ducre at 601-347-2297. YUNEity is fundraising for the Back to School Extravaganza by selling raffle tickets for $2 for a free car wash and oil change. Another fundraiser will be a car wash on July 20 from 9:30 to noon at the corner of Jackson Landing and Beech Street.