BY TRONE DOWD
Milan Taylor started the Rockaway Youth Task Force (RYTF) in 2011 at age 21. Tired of seeing inactivity in his community, Taylor did something that he didn’t see enough of from his peers both young and old. He stepped up.
As a young appointee of Community Board 14, Taylor recognized a dire lack of youth participation in the political and civic process. With this realization, Milan created RYTF as an advocacy organization composed entirely of young people in Rockaway. The goal? To get his fellow youths involved and passionate about improving the community one step at a time.
The group over the last five years have done just that. From community outreach and teaching kids the concepts of racism, the importance of voting and organizing campaigns for a cause. In 2012, after Hurricane Sandy left many residents in the Rockaway area devastated, the RYTF was there in full force helping seniors and the disabled out of their homes and into safe spaces with food and shelter. Since then, the group has rose to prominence keeping similar acts of goodwill throughout the community.
The RYTF recently sent out an email to its followers declaring that big things are on the way in 2017.
“Over the next few months, RYTF will be undergoing a strategic planning process to map out our next steps,” the email said. “We will be working with professional consultants to guide our planning and we are looking forward to engaging our members and community during the process. We have grown exponentially over the past five years and we are so blessed to have had such great success. We feel that this is the right time to devote our time and resources to this process to catapult RYTF to the next level.”
The PRESS of Southeast Queens had a chance to speak with Taylor about some of the changes they have in store for the new year.
“The Rockaway Youth Task Force is a fairly young organization,” Taylor said. “It’s constantly growing and evolving. Since superstorm Sandy, the organization hasn’t really had the time to really sit down and evaluate our work and our impact in the way that we would like.”
Taylor said that he and his fellow organizers have taken it upon themselves to take that time now. During the devastating 2012 hurricane, RYTF spent much of their time trying to help those hit hardest by the storm. With most of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy behind them, the group decided to do some restructuring. Not only will they be hiring both a youth organizer and a Director of Youth Organizing to help plan future events, they will be hiring a Director of Development. Taylor said the Director of Development would work to “foster relationships between potential funders and maintaining that relationship once those funders are on board.” They are still looking to fill all three positions.
In terms of things they would like to coordinate for 2017, Taylor said his team was already throwing around a number of ideas. Amongst those ideas is expanding college access.
“It is one of the biggest concerns amongst our membership,” Taylor said. “They feel that they’re not getting adequate help at school from their guidance counselor or from their school administration. So they’re looking towards the organization to fill in that gap.”
He said striking up a relationship with local colleges is something that he and his team want to begin looking into.
Next up on the agenda, the RYTF wants to expand their urban farm and community garden. At half an acre, it is considered one of the largest community gardens in the city.
“We’re proud of forming this organization. The young here in the Rockaways aren’t necessarily painted in the best light. We feel that we’re doing our best to defy that stereotype,” Taylor said. “We’ve seen very modest success in a very short amount of time and we hope to keep that momentum moving forward.”
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123 firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly