Hidden History: local couple partners with NAACP to help youth

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Carla Johnson is proud of her “SWAG.” SWAG stands for Soldiers Walking According to God. It’s the program she and her husband, Steve, started to help kids deal with a variety of issues from academic to emotional.

“I hate to see youth struggle,” said Carla Johnson, “I hate to see them not being exposed to things they’re not aware of. We partner with a lot of different organizations in the community so we can provide the full package of what they may not be getting at home or at school.”

The Johnson’s started SWAG back in 2016. They run a weekly after school program for students at Susquehanna Township Middle School. Now they host a teen summit on Saturdays in Harrisburg.

“It’s pretty fun,” said 6th grader Adonis Sutton, “We do a lot of activities and we learn helpful stuff that will help us when we grow up.”

It’s also a place for young people to talk about the issues affecting them.

“We try to let them have fun and feel comfortable around us, and let them speak,” said Carla, “I think a lot of students just want to be heard. They’re not looking for advice, they’re just looking for someone to listen to them.”

“They come to us having a heavy burden, so I look to provide guidance,” said Steve Johnson.

Steve is a full-time therapist. He says he was once considered an “at-risk” youth, so he can relate to their problems.

“This avenue allows me to touch those youth because I see myself in them, and I know the potential they have,” he said.

Now SWAG is partnering with the Greater Harrisburg NAACP.

“It was right on time because they have the same mission that we have with our youth,” said Carla Johnson.

“Our youth need to know their cultural history and how it fits in, as well as our white students, as well as our black students, as well as our brown students, all colors of the spectrum need to know American history. Never blocked out,” said NAACP President Rev. Franklin Hairston-Allen, “They need to know what it was and what it is. That’s why the NAACP is important.”

It’s also important for the NAACP to bring the next generation into the fold.

“It is necessary,” said Hairston-Allen, “It is coherent to have a historical group that can tell the story to our young people.”

SWAG has reached hundreds of kids over the years. Sutton says it’s been a big help for him.

“They taught me how to control my anger,” he said, “They talk about stuff like that, and they teach us stuff. Right now I have straight A’s and I’m doing pretty good in school.”

Both Johnsons have full-time jobs. They don’t get paid to do this. But they say there’s a need, and they know parents can’t do it alone.

“They say it takes a village,” said Steve Johnson, “But it really takes an impactful village, it takes an intentional village. It’s not just a bunch of people, it’s people who really love and support our kids who can really be impactful and influential in their lives.”

For more information about SWAG, visit https://www.blessed2givepa.com/

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