School Bulletin: Friends fighting for change
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Aviona Escarffullett and Nadia Nwagbaraocha just finished their freshman year at Brown Deer High School. The two friends represented Wisconsin at a national competition this summer and will keep fighting for change in their community.
"If you just look at the areas in Milwaukee, it's pretty segregated," Escarffullett says. "We just wanted to bring awareness to it and how significant it really is."
Data from the 2020 Census show Milwaukee has become more diverse. But according to Brown University's Diversity and Disparities Project, which analyzes census data, Milwaukee remains one of the most segregated cities in the United States.
"If you look around and see how much people are struggling with trusting [each other]," Nwagbaraocha says.
For an essay contest, Escarffullett and Nwagbaraocha chose to write about segregation and access mental health. The pair was then picked to represent the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee at the YMCA Youth Governors Conference in Washington, D.C. They say they were very excited for the opportunity, especially since they were traveling together.
The duo had just a few short weeks to prepare their presentations for the conference. They say they weren't nervous to compete against other students for funding. Instead, they drew strength and confidence from their personal experiences.
"I did have a revelation when I was younger, and I did notice how much African Americans did struggle," Escarffullett says. "I wanted to help people who looked like me. It hurt seeing them struggle."
While in Washington D.C., Escarffullett and Nwagbaraocha met with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Glenn Grothman and aides with Sen. Ron Johnson's office. They even met Suzanne McCormick, Y-USA President and CEO.
With the help of Chris Przedpełski, Executive Director of Youth and Teen Initiatives at the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, the girls have started building relationships with Children's Wisconsin and Wellpoint Care Network. Both organizations have clinicians to help people respond to trauma and mental health issues. This summer the YMCA will host family Q&A sessions. All thanks to Escarffullett and Nwagbaraocha.
"I want them to know that it's okay open [up] and share your own thoughts and how you feel about things that's going on in Milwaukee or any other state," Nwagbaraocha says.