For 17-year-old Mikala Hodges, volunteering in a donation drive that filled seven school buses and four trucks with clothes, furniture and 25,000 pounds of food for Black Forest fire victims was a chance to be a part of something bigger than herself.
The Mitchell High School student is president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's youth council, which partnered with Academy School District 20 in a donation drive last summer to help victims of the most destructive fire in state history. Mikala and fellow council members spent a Saturday in the parking lot of Liberty High School, helping District 20 students unload hundreds of cars that stopped by to drop off donations. The partnership was born after a former District 20 student who was home from college for the summer reached out to the NAACP youth council for help with the drive, she said.
The drive was emblematic of the group's larger goal of being a resource to the community, said Mikala's father, Consuello Hodges, who serves as the youth works chairman for the NAACP. He says it also shows the group's commitment to connecting with social and community issues in a way that dispels perceptions of what the organization does.
"It doesn't always have to be a civil rights issue. Sometimes it just has to be an opportunity for community involvement and partnership," he said. "It was just an amazing opportunity for the kids to learn how to work with a diverse group of people to make a change."
Hodges also is a commander at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base and a youth pastor at the Emmanuel Missionary Baptist church, where Mikala is also president of the youth group there. Although the Hodges family only moved to the city two years ago, Mikala and her father are big advocates for the community. And despite hopping around from place to place for the last 20 years of his military career, Consuello Hodges has made it a goal to give back to every community he's lived in, and he encourages the youth council, which, three year ago, was inactive, to do the same. "My job is to make them advocates and servants to a community that they own," he said.
The youth council, made up of about 30 teens from schools across the city, participates and promotes the Food for Thought community forums, attends school board meetings, and recently organized a civil rights event and celebration commemorating the life and death of Trayvon Martin, a teen who was shot and killed in Florida in February 2012.
Mikala Hodges, who balances activities such as theater and show choir with school and her duties as president of the two youth councils, said events she works on are designed to promote quality and justice for all people. "We work hard on what we do," she said. "I'm just proud of people my age actually being consistent and getting that urge of wanting to do community service." Members of the youth council will be honored for their work in the Black Forest fire victims donation drive on April 1, when the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Red Cross honors them with the Hometown Heroes youth award during a dinner at the Antlers Hilton hotel.
Consuello Hodges says the council's actions have come full circle with the honor. "The truth is, success in life is determined by your ability to make it about someone else," he said.