Metro nonprofit helping kids of color build confidence and providing tools for success

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- A metro nonprofit is working hard to provide kids of color who live in the suburbs with opportunities to succeed.

"We're trying to make sure kids who are growing up in the suburbs have a balanced upbringing," Suburban Balance founder LaShawn Walker said.

About 150 families in the Kansas City area have joined the group, which was created in 2013.

Its mission is to expose kids of color to networking opportunities, influential leaders within the community and professional careers. There's also a big focus on leadership and building self-esteem and confidence.

"Educational and cultural activities and events to suburban kids of color, to help them live a well-rounded, well-balanced lifestyle," Walker said of the nonprofit.

Students involved in the program are making key connections in their chosen fields at an early age.

"Make my own clothes, jewelry, makeup," Ariana Tolbert said of what she wants to do for a career.

"I want to do something in the medical field. I looked at being a neonatal nurse for a long time or a physical therapist would be fun," Macie Washington said.

"An art therapist," Morgan Merrit said of her chosen career path.

Tolbert from Lee's Summit West, Washington from St. Theresa's Academy and Merrit from Lee's Summit West are three young ladies in the program. They said the organization has helped them immensely to gain social skills and the courage to follow their dreams.

"I'm very determined," Washington said.

"My leadership skills have gone through the roof," Merrit said.

"I think I've grown a lot of confidence, especially in public speaking," Tolbert said.

Tolbert, 16, said with the help of the program, over the past few years, she's landed some pretty rare opportunities for someone her age.

"Do you ever see a 15-year-old getting a paid internship?" Tolbert asked. "I've got multiple jobs with the help of Suburban Balance."

Suburban Balance is a K-12 organization for both boys and girls. If you're interested in joining, visit the group's Facebook page.

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