Midian Leadership Project aims to give Charleston’s West Side youth a ‘safe space’

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Saturday was prom night in South Charleston, and while many high school students celebrated prom after a year of being shut-in because of the pandemic, a prom “after party” hosted by the Midian Leadership Project aimed to give them a safe space after a difficult year.

The organizers were high school seniors themselves not so long ago.

They say Charleston’s West Side needs more young mentors and spaces like the one they’re trying to create.

“Everyone has a really negative picture of the West Side and we’re really just trying to change the narrative and give it a positive outlook and show that people can come here and have a good time if we all work together, we’ll have a better future,” said Jabbar Thompson.

“Everyone has a really negative picture of the West Side and we’re really just trying to change the narrative and give it a positive outlook and show that people can come here and have a good time if we all work together, we’ll have a better future.”

Jabbar Thompson

Thompson is one of four young men from the West Side — all in their twenties — who along with Jeff Biddle, founded the Midian Leadership Project.

The group recently acquired a former gym through fundraising.

On Saturday they hosted their first large-scale event; a free glow party for prom-goers with games, music, and prizes.

After the recent murder of KJ Taylor, they say they want to promote a positive environment at the center so that something like that never happens again.

“When stuff like that happens it really makes me sad because I don’t want to lose key players in the community, I don’t want to lose future leaders of the community,” said James Tyrell Lucas with the Midian Leadership Project.

Six months down the road, the men say they envision a functioning gym with an after-school section, a skating rink, and event space.

“The kids need more attention, they need more care; they need us, they need better role models,” said Thompson.

All four of the Midian Leadership Project mentors and Biddle, a reverend, have a solid religious foundation, they also hold church service in their new building.

“Our goal is to actually get kids from middle school into stable adulthood,” says Lucas, who says the space targets student-athletes with busy schedules who can get help with their homework, for young people who need a place to go to after school, and for students fresh out of high school who don’t have sports going for them anymore.

“If they need somewhere to chill, do their homework, whatever they need to do that’s positive they can do it here,” said Thompson.

Next week is prom for Capital High School students the Midian Leadership Project is hosting a foam party for them.

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