by Florence Howard —
Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson presented a $500,000 check to School Seed – an organization he said “shares our dedication to the nurturing the potential of young Tennesseans” – at a special presentation held at Gooch Park on Wednesday.
“This generous contribution will support youth sports organizations and other groups across the state in their efforts to provide essential soft skills training,” said Parkinson (District 98).
“Our young people are the heart and soul of our great state…. And it is our duty to ensure that they have the tools they need to succeed in life.”
As the crowd responded with “Yes” and “Amen,” Parkinson said soft skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork and conflict are indispensable in today’s world.
“They empower our youth to thrive in academics, in the workplace and in their communities. Through this initiative we are investing in the future of Tennessee, we are providing our youth with the skills and knowledge that they need to overcome challenges and to seize opportunities. We are fostering a generation of leaders, innovators, and community builders.”
Parkinson expressed gratitude to Gov. Bill Lee “for understanding the importance of this investment” and to the Tennessee General Assembly, particularly those members of the Tennessee Black Caucus, who supported and voted for the appropriation.
The expertise and dedication of School Seed, including staff and board members, “will ensure that these funds will be distributed effectively, fairly to organizations that share our vision for youth in Tennessee,” he said. “And as we move forward, let us remember that our investment today will yield dividends in the form of empowered, resilient, successful young Tennesseans.
The check was accepted by Vincent J. McCaskill, who serves as president/ CEO of the School Seed Foundation of Memphis.
School Seed of Memphis is an organization that provides resources and support “in the and beyond the classroom to enhance the learning and well-being of students and teachers in public schools.”
After his remarks, Parkinson introduced Memphis City Councilwoman Michalyn Easter-Thomas (District 7), who gave brief remarks.
Among the community residents attending the event was JoAnn Street, who serves as director of HUG (Hollywood, University, and Gooch Parks) Neighborhood Park Friends. She has operated a year-round program for ages 5 to 18 since 2015.
Excited about the community opportunity for area young people to receive job readiness training, Street said, “What a blessing today has been. This is what community-driven efforts to transform parks and green spaces from vacant to vibrant opportunities for low-income residents looks like.”
The grant funding ranges from $5,000 to $35,000. The grant application for School Seed funding is available for download at http://schoolseed.org.
Located at 1974 Hunter Avenue, Gooch is a 10.28-acre park with a lighted outdoor swimming pool, basketball court, and a pavilion, which is named after Cecil Milton Gooch and his wife Voyce Gooch. Off-street parking is available.
The HUG Park Friends organization, under the leadership of Street, adopted the park several years ago and has been hosting both summer and year-round activities for area young people. The park pool has a mural painted by fine artist Jamond Bullock.
(For more information on the HUG program and activities offered at the park, contact JoAnn Street at 901-282-4541.)