Roanoke community rallies together to fund youth talent show

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 7:45 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A youth talent show took place Friday afternoon after weeks of concerns regarding the funding for the event.

Weeks ago, Mayor Sherman Lea questioned whether the city’s Gun Violence Prevention Commission should spend the $25,000 the program was asking for. He also questioned whether the event would reach the city’s at-risk youth.

“We have other venues like our youth services for the city that can do those kinds of things. I’d like for this commission to primarily be focused on curbing gun violence,” said Lea.

Organizer Nicole Ross responded by saying the event would, “teach (kids) about non-violence, self-care, things like that. So that we can start shaping them, giving them the idea that violence is not the answer.”

Despite controversy, the show went on. But Ross says putting it on wasn’t easy. Ross is a Roanoke’s Gun Violence Prevention Commissioner. She had originally requested $25,000 in funding for the event. But only $3,000 was approved.

“Well, the commission did approve $3,000 for the marketing, but the city never released those funds,” explained Ross.

Ross says she’s asked for a formal explanation as to why the city decided to not give them the money to pay for marketing. So, she and other officials raised funds to still host the talent show.

“I’m a little disappointed; well, I’m a lot disappointed that I put it out to the students and then I had to figure out how to fund it,” added Ross. “That didn’t feel good.”

WDBJ7 reached out to the city and officials said they are anticipating an agreement to come next week where they will give the $3,000 approved by the commission.

But Ross says thanks to donations from different agencies and community members, she was able to put the money together.

“So, every dime for this event came from the community,” said Ross. “And I’m very proud of that.”

The final talent show budget came down to $15,567.39.

After the Jefferson Center lowered its fees, Ross spent $5,917.39 for the venue.

$1,875 for prizes.

$1,875 for food and decorations.

$150 for contractors.

$4,750 for Marketing.

$500 for Staging.

$500 for Miscellaneous.

The event also drew concerns about whether it would help curb gun violence in the star city. Participants had to take a course with Better Agreements about conflict resolution. Salem Langoski says she learned many skills through the training they had to complete.

“Not really avoid conflict, how to take it head-on with your heart up and go into conflict, ready to get over with and to make peace by that person, whether then to just get it over with,” said Langoski.

Ross says others may have quit after not having the funding, but she couldn’t let the kids down.

“We need to teach these young people that what we say, we will do, as a city and as a community,” said Ross. “And we’ve done that today.”

At the event WDBJ7 talked to Roanoke’s Gun Violence Commission Chair Joe Cobb, who said arts saved his life.

Hundreds of people showed up to see the event. First place took home $500 dollars.