BELOIT—A new project to mentor and help guide children of color—The 608 KIDZ—has launched to help local students learn life-long skills that can lead to a better life.
Details of 608 KIDZ were shared during a free Thanksgiving meal hosted by the group on Nov. 18. 608 KIDS meets at the Beloit Public Library.
Rising Queens Inc. Founder Tracy Dumas and Vice President Nikita Pittman started the Y Project! Youth Organizing Under Nonviolent Generations in July of 2021 in Beloit due to the racial and socioeconomic disparities facing Black and Brown children. The Y Project! later partnered with Filling the Void Mentoring Services led by Kevin Young and was renamed 608 KIDZ as part of a collaborative effort.
“When we saw that in the first five weeks of school the suspensions in the School District of Beloit for Black students had already hit 131, we knew there was a problem and we had to act fast. So together Rising Queens Inc., Y Project! and Filling the Void Mentoring partnered to create the 608 KIDZ,” Dumas said.
Dumas said the mentoring program provides a wide range of services that include, but is not limited to: mentoring/tutoring, life and social skills, restorative justice, in-school drop-ins, cognitive behavioral therapy, mental wellness, a reading literacy program, social emotional learning, trauma informed care, a personal responsibility educational program, financial literacy instruction and soft job skills.
The services are free to students. 608 KIDZ is a non-profit organization under the umbrella of the Rising Queens.
“The best of all is we have the staff to be capable of being culturally responsive and inclusive to the needs of our Black and Brown students,” Dumas said.
“We are all learning how to deal with our issues together and become productive members of society. The greatest part of this group for me is seeing the growth and desire to want to do better. Our children are our future, and we owe it to them to supply them with all the tools to be successful and build a better tomorrow just like our parents and grandparents did for us,” said Rising Queens Vice President and 608 KIDZ Program Coordinator Nikita Pittman.
608 KIDZ meets Monday through Thursday at the Beloit Public Library from 4—6 p.m. There are 34 students enrolled and about 23 in attendance. Pittman, Tracy Dumas, her niece and a behavioral specialist Alisha Dumas, her daughter and mentor Kay’La Dumas, facilitator Patricia Crawford and Kevin Young are leading the group. A counselor is expected to be coming on board soon.
At the Nov. 18 Thanksgiving Dinner, students and families were treated to a free meal with turkey, ham potato salad and more and were able to learn more about 608 KIDZ.
At the event Sheena Mann, a member of Rising Queens, donated more than 38 boxes of name-brand tennis shoes.
Dumas’s son, Da’Mar Dumas, donated several Guess brand coats for the kids.
Mrs. Rock County Shatoria Teague was present and spoke with the kids about her career and what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Teague is the owner of Always & Forever Formal Wear.
“Being with those kids that night and watching them reminded me of growing in Beloit. My best friend, Shirley Tipler, and her family cared for me when I didn’t care for myself and now it’s my time to look out for others when they can’t look out for themselves. God is good,” Dumas said.
Dumas also said she is glad that 608 KIDZ brought in Young. In 2014 he started Filling the Void Mentoring Program as a response to the sudden increase in gun violence in the city. Young had partnered with Community Action Pathways to provide life skills, trauma mitigation, truancy reduction and promote success, building healthy relationships and life skills to teens.
“I believe that Beloit reflects Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote when he said ‘what affects one directly affects us all indirectly.’”