SPRINGFIELD - Zariah Kelly-Reid is making big plans for the Robinson Gardens Development Youth Group.
And as its newly elected president, she is poised to carry them out at the Springfield Housing Authority family development in the Pine Point neighborhood of the city.
The 14-year-old, a recent graduate of Van Sickle Middle School who is bound for Chicopee High School in September, is aiming for a cohesive group of young residents who will do things like clean up open areas, pitch in on a community garden, focus on school work, job hunt, and learn about careers and opportunities that await them in a grown-up world.
"I'm really focused on doing things that can help our community, and help us all to be better people," said Zariah. "We all want to be a part of something bigger."
Zariah is at the head of a new team that is working with Springfield Housing Authority youth engagement coordinator Jimmie Mitchell on programs, events and activities to keep young people engaged on their futures at Robinson Gardens.
Mitchell said Zariah is poised to make good things happen there.
"She's young, she's energetic, and she is a positive influence on all the young people here," Mitchell said. "She's already proven to be great."
Mitchell has been working with teens and young adults at Robinson Gardens the past two years. Besides being a daily presence at the development, he brings in speakers from various professions on a weekly basis, to expose young people to careers that might entice them. He also works on education, job training, and of course, employment opportunities.
"We're helping the kids get summer jobs, things that will help them out," he said. "We focus on positive things for the kids. We try to keep them busy."
For Zariah, who has lived at Robinson Gardens with her family for the past year, the new leadership position means ongoing work with Mitchell to bring to the youth group programs and events that will steer them toward success.
"We're going to go around and get a lot more kids involved this summer. I want to get to know everyone, and to make sure we have things for them to do," she said.
Already, Zariah has formed a leadership team that includes her vice president, Jaleace Lindsay, who is also 14. As a seven-year resident at the development, Jaleace has the advantage of perspective, and of understanding a bit of Robinson Gardens history.
"It's a pretty good place to live, and we're going to make it even better," Jaleace said."I always wanted to be a part of something special, like this. I think it's going to be a great summer working together on interesting things," said Jaleace, who plans to study nursing at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy starting in September.
Others on the team include Christopher Davis, 10, and Raemiah Brown, 14.
"Being a part of this group helps you to accomplish what you want to be when you get older," explained Raemiah. "It helps you think about your future."
Christopher added, "Jimmie's good. He teaches us about good stuff."