By Nyesha Stone
Running Rebels Community Organization (RRCO) has been changing the lives of the youth since 1980. Founder and Executive Director Victor Barnett saw the youth of Milwaukee needed more than what they were receiving, so he stepped in. RRCO is a private, non-profit youth agency with the vision to provide positive choices for the youth, according to their website.
RRCO focuses on Milwaukee’s youth that is at-risk from ages eight to nineteen. The organization has three main programs: education, preventative and intensive monitoring, and they all fit under RRCO’s After-School/Summer Program for at-risk youth.
The Education program’s focus is to improve their youth’s academics, while the Preventative program focuses on providing positive activities for the youth. And lastly, the Intensive Monitoring program includes several other programs such as Severe Chronic Offenders programs.
Cortez Johnson joined RRCO after being discovered by Barnett while playing basketball at a park. One of RRCO’s most known preventative programs is their basketball team, which is known for having D1 athletes.
Johnson’s been with RRCO for three years and through the organization he’s been helping the community, feeding the homeless, attending business groups and now he’s one of the newest members of the Milwaukee Youth Council.
“I want to spark the mind of the youth,” said Johnson. “Everybody can be positive they just have to have the right mind to do it.”
Seventeen years old with a 3.7 GPA and he’s thinking about heading to UW-Sheboygan to attain a degree in psychology. Johnson hopes to come back to Milwaukee and change the city for the better.
He’s a young African male from the city of Milwaukee who’s trying to change the stereotypical image the media portrays of people like him. Johnson admits RRCO has shaped him into the person he is today.
“The Running Rebels do everything for the community,” said Johnson.
Johnson is not your typical inner-city kid, well actually he is, he’s the inner-city kid the media tends to look over, but Lee Sanders knew Johnson was special the moment he met him.
Sanders is RRCO’s recreation specialist and he was given the task of calling eight to nine youth to get them to come down to RRCO’s office, and Johnson was a part of that list.
Johnson doesn’t open up to strangers well, but RRCO finally got him to crack. They would constantly reach out to Johnson for outings, but Johnson never showed. During Christmas time, RRCO likes to provide its youth which included Johnson with presents which surprised him because he felt he didn’t show up enough to deserve their kindness. From that point on, RRCO became a part of his life.
“He’s selfless,” said Sanders. “He’s trying to be an example for all people.”
It’s constantly being stated through the media, social media and many other outlets that Milwaukee, especially the inner-city, has nothing to be proud of yet we have young men like Johnson who reside here and is breaking down every barrier he comes across.
Johnson hopes to inspire the youth because if he can do it then… well, you know the rest.
“[There are] young black men who want to be successful,” said Johnson.