New Vision Youth still going strong after more than two decades

Holly Viers • Mar 22, 2020 at 7:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Since 1999, New Vision Youth has been making a positive impact on its members and the community.

From service projects to outreach events, the group has stayed busy over the years, and it isn’t slowing down now. Director Johnnie Mae Swagerty said she’s proud of everything the group has already accomplished and is looking forward to another successful year.

When and why did you start New Vision Youth?

Swagerty co-founded New Vision Youth with the late Xavier Hall on Aug. 15, 1999. The intent was to educate youth and the community, provide assistance to seniors, offer scholarships and expose children to events and cultures they may have never experienced before.

“It was called New Vision Youth Outreach, and we had about 10 board members, which they still help today,” Swagerty said. “We had our meetings at Mt. Zion Church and the George Washington Carver Library that was over in Riverview. We would do outreach programs for our youth and our seniors and the community.”

In 2010, New Vision Youth began operating under South Central Kingsport Community Development Inc. Since its inception, the group’s theme has been “Without hope, there is no vision.”

What does New Vision Youth do today?

New Vision Youth started several annual community events and ongoing programs for members, including:

• The Soul Food Gathering, which began in 1999

• Candlelight vigils in remembrance of community members who have passed away

• The Martin Luther King Jr. Day community luncheon

• A Grandparents Day luncheon

• The New Vision Prom and Gents to Gentlemen Pageant

• Community outreach blood pressure checks

• Garbage pickup events in the Riverview community

• Programs for its members about banking, STEM careers and public speaking

• An Easter egg hunt with the Kingsport Senior Center

The group has received support from several local entities, businesses and organizations, including Kingsport Parks and Recreation, Kingsport Housing Authority, Eastman, the Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition, Kingsport Girls Inc., Riverview Boys & Girls Club and local churches.

What’s next?

“We really want to emphasize the kids’ education, getting them more involved. … We want them on the right road, and it takes an education to get to the road to success; you just can’t not go to school,” Swagerty said. “That’s our most important thing is education, and then from there getting a job and giving back to the community. But we’re going to continue doing what we’re doing, and people are always welcome to help out.”

How can someone join or help?

Children ages 4-18 can join the group; applications are available at the Riverview Boys & Girls Club. Swagerty added that the group is currently seeking a van or small bus to haul its members; anyone who’d like to help or get more information can contact Swagerty at (423) 429-7553.

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