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Making A Difference  

A Cause for Inspiration
By Sarah Lane
Apr 11, 2006, 5:29pm

I went searching for information about today’s gangs and the impact that student organizations are having on gang related problems. What I got in return was a letter from a high school student that impressed the heck out of me. If you are in doubt that you can make a difference in today’s world, read this letter.


My name is DeWarren Langley, an 18-year-old senior at Jordan High School and the Founder and Executive Director of a non-profit, non-partisan, youth led, education and activist organization called Teenagers Politically Active (TPA). At this time, I would like to inform you of TPA, TPA’s 2001 and 2002 Annual Review, and TPA’s 2003 planned activism.

TPA encourages all the youth of Durham, North Carolina to play an active part in the struggles of their communities and schools, as well as the strengthening of the educational, cultural, environmental, political, and social conditions of youth. In doing so, TPA strives to achieve fundamental social change for the benefit of all young people. It endeavors to unite the youth of our city to take their rightful place in the affairs of their schools and communities.

In January 2001, TPA re-evaluated Jordan High School’s emergency evacuation, search procedures, safety precautions and communication endeavors. During the spring, TPA focused on the racial division on the Durham Public School’s Board of Education, as well as bus driver shortage, teacher appreciation, and overcrowded classrooms.

The Youth Perspective: A Gang Threat Assessment was released in June. The purpose of this assessment was to provide an accurate and comprehensive picture of the threat posed by gangs from a youth perspective, as well as to provide direction in identifying, analyzing, and responding to gang-related problems and in assessing results in an effective way. It was anticipated that the assessment would help local policy makers and law enforcement agency administrators grasp the severity and scope of the gang problem and assist them in formulating solutions and allocating resources.

In the summer of 2001, TPA received a $1000 grant from the Durham County Cooperative Extension’s Community Capacity Building (CCB) grant program.

In August, TPA entered into collaboration with the Durham Chamber of Commerce to assist with the Durham County Kids Voting Program, which had an 11% voter turnout among the youth of Durham.

In November, TPA co-sponsored Teen Summit 2001 at Rogers-Herr Middle School with the Durham Youth Advisory Board. During the Summit, teenagers challenged their peers to consider the consequences of their actions and inspired youth to take control of their destiny. Youth facilitated and co-hosted workshops that addressed issues surrounding youth.

In late November 2001, Executive Director Langley was awarded the Community Leadership and Service award for outstanding leadership and service contributions to the City of Durham by New World Communities, Inc. whose mission is to provide a balance approach to interfaith and interracial relationships, and to publicly acknowledge citizens who make contributions to improving the quality of life for all human beings.

In early December, Executive Director Langley was the recipient of the Independent Weekly’s 2001 Citizen Award which was an honorary award of thanks for his tireless dedication to making the Durham community a better place to live, as well as the ability to inspire other citizens to action and for providing them the tools to be effective.

TPA has completed another successful year of activism with a major achievement. In January 2002, TPA attempted to prevent random searches at Jordan High School, but failed due to incidences that prompted the need for such a plan by the administration.

During the spring, TPA’s funds associated with the Durham County Cooperative Extension’s Community Capacity Building (CCB) Grant were frozen. Courtesy of the North Carolina Civic Education Consortium I had the privilege to attend the 32nd Annual North Carolina Youth Legislative Assembly, a three-day mock legislative session held in March. Throughout late spring, TPA researched, gathered and received information to develop a proposal called the Durham Youth Commission (DYC).

In early summer, TPA submitted Articles of Incorporation to the Department of Secretary of State and incorporated in the state of North Carolina, raised $262.00 for TPA’s federal tax exemption application and reached an agreement with the Department of Parks & Recreation to absorb the Durham Youth Commission.

In August, TPA received endorsement letters from the DYC Proposal from Debra Henzy, Executive Director of the North Carolina Civic Education Consortium and Christopher Coes, Vice President of the National Youth Rights Association (NYRA), a national organization dedicated to defending the civil and human rights of young people in the United States.

In mid-September, the Durham City Council unanimously passed Resolution #8909 endorsing an act to create and maintain a youth commission in the City of Durham. TPA continued with its collaboration with the Durham Chamber of Commerce in assisting with the Durham County Kids Voting program which had a 14% voter turnout among the youth of Durham, up 3% from last year in November.

In late December, I was appointed by Alex Koroknay-Palicz, Executive Director of NYRA to be Director of the Chapter Formation Committee, responsible for forming local chapters of NYRA throughout the nation and assist local chapter leaders during the fundamental formation stages. I was also appointed by the Durham City Council to serve on the Lyon Park Advisory Board.

As TPA enters its third year of activism, TPA will continue to focus on the development of the Durham Youth Commission, as well as establishing other opportunities for youth representation on the local level through serving on local boards, committees, and councils. The effort to get youth fully incorporated in the local decision-making process is an ongoing process and TPA plans to remain dedicated to this initiative until its completion.

On Monday, February 3rd, the Durham City Council unanimously passed Resolution #8959 which amended Resolution #8909, endorsing an act to create and maintain a youth commission in the City of Durham, to include the participation by the Board of County Commissioners. TPA is still working to get the Durham Public Schools Board of Education to vote in support of the youth commission.

TPA is currently seeking new members to add to the membership of TPA. If you know of any youth interested in positive solutions for youth issues in the Durham, North Carolina area, please have them visit us on the World Wide Web at:

If they would like to join, they can fill out our online application at

I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this memorandum and look forward to hearing from you.


DeWarren Langley, Founder and Executive Director
Teenagers Politically Active
1309 Jackson St.
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 490-0783
(919) 490-6533

"Preparing today for tomorrow's Future."

[“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”]
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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