More than 250 South Orange-Maplewood high school students and their guests filled The Woodland in Maplewood on Friday, May 6, for “Don’t Back Down,” a rap performance showcase hosted by the YouthNet Youth Advisory Board (YAB).
The evening, supervised by YouthNet chaperone volunteers and run by current and alumni YAB student members, began with a set by Kevin Vincent and Jeremiah Hall, the Hillside, New Jersey teens who came to national fame with their creation of the dance trend “The Running Man Challenge” on the Ellen Degeneres Show. That set was followed by several Columbia High School rappers and rap groups, including Apex Trizzy, Ezzy, Famou$, Mali Smith and Matthew Ali.
The show, one of several put on throughout the school year, is always an anticipated event for local teens as well as a fundraiser for YouthNet, which in addition to its YAB program, runs the after school enrichment programs at South Orange and Maplewood Middle schools and an internship mentoring summer program for CHS students.
The YAB also showcases student talent at its annual talent show, at which singers, rappers, dancers and musicians have an opportunity to perform for their schoolmates, friends and families.
Diane Malloy, executive director of YouthNet, said the event was well-attended and showcased how YAB student leaders can orchestrate and manage an event of this size. A board member in attendance remarked on the importance of having safe spaces for young people to gather: “They like to socialize, and how nice is it for them to be able to dance, laugh, and just be young?”
YAB’s next event is scheduled for the fall.
For more information about YouthNet and all the activities and clubs it sponsors, visit www.somayouthnet.org.
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