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Starr Connextions reaches out

A full-time job. A part-time college student. A business owner and local deejay.

Shantee Perkins is a very busy woman, but she still finds time to work with inner-city youth.

She says she's "not a kid person" and never saw herself in the role of mentor, but an epiphany a couple of years ago directed her to start reaching out to young people.

"I never wanted kids. They're cute. I like them. Then it came to me one day to start doing some youth empowerment for kids," she said. "God put it in me."

Her business, Starr Connextions, helps her achieve that goal through two components. One is a radio show on WBNY-FM that airs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and includes both music and talk.

The other involves motivational speaking for inner-city youth and a program she calls Saving Our Youth for Tomorrow. Open to teenagers from all over the area, Saving Our Youth includes workshops and forums for 13- to 19-year-olds.

The majority of participants live on Buffalo's East Side. And much to her surprise, she seems to be reaching them.

"They are receptive to me. They talk to me openly. They feel comfortable. They tell me stuff," she said.

A member of Young Tabernacle Holiness Church on Best Street, where she is president of the hospitality ministry, Perkins also delivers motivational speeches. Last year, she spoke at Hopevale, a home for troubled teens in Hamburg, which closed last December. And she was the keynote speaker at St. Monica Campus for young women on Genesee Street, where she talked about the importance of overcoming fears to meet success during the 2009 eighth-grade graduation.

Part of Nativity Miguel Middle School, St. Monica is a middle school serving African-American, Latino and African refugee children.

Perkins also works with local youth organizations like Youth With a Purpose on the city's Lower West Side, World of Girls Empowerment Center on Delaware Avenue and the Stop the Violence Coalition.

Tracy Cooley was the program director who started a support group earlier this year at the coalition's Back to Basics Outreach Ministry on William Street for people who have lost loved ones to homicides. She has represented the coalition as a guest on Perkins' radio show.

"She interviews a lot of organizations in the community, the ones that are doing things, trying to make a difference in the community," said Cooley, who helps Perkins find organizations to appear on the radio show.

She also helps Perkins organize forums for her Saving Our Youth for Tomorrow program. The most recent one -- "The Good and the Bad of Hip-Hop" -- was Saturday at Buffalo State College, where Perkins is studying communications.

Next month, Saving Our Youth for Tomorrow will host another workshop on domestic violence and teen girls to coincide with national Domestic Violence Awareness month, Cooley said.

A health awareness forum for youth will be held in November.

That's a lot of work with young people for a woman who said she's not a kid person.

"I'm still baffled," she said. "I never saw it in myself. God saw it in me."

Have an idea for a person, organization or event that would make a good East Side Story? E-mail it to eastsidestory@buffnews.com, fax it to 856-5150 or call 849-6026.

email: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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