Community Servant Strives to Empower Young People in Ward 8

Hastily she clambered out of her smoke-grey mini truck, wearing a black and yellow sweatsuit, with Nike sneakers to match, the soles of the sneakers quickly pattering the pavement with each stride.

She immediately began to rush towards the center area of Minnesota and Good Hope Road S.E., arranging the table with utensils and condiments to prepare for her fundraiser, to raise proceeds for the youth. Vigorously, she yanks the pans full of pounds of fish out of her trunk, only to double back for the hot dogs and hamburgers.  

There’s no sign of anyone at the fundraiser yet, but she continues to hurry as if there’s a line of people impatiently waiting. Notably, her dedication reigns over the area, as she swiftly has everything set up for her fundraising event in minutes. You would think that she had a team of volunteers, but she’s typically a one-woman army, consisting of herself, Aummett Paige.

It’s about “serving the community and empowering the youth,” she says.

Paige, a Ward 8 resident and community servant, founded The Anacostia AMP Outreach Empowerment Center & the Youth Sports Association four years ago to provide a sense of hope to despairing Ward 8 communities.

The Anacostia AMP Outreach Empowerment Center is a non-profit organization that has specifically affected the youth of Ward 8 by providing H.O.P.E (Healing, Opportunities, Provision/Peace, & Empowerment) along with creating the Youth Sports Association.

Ardently, Paige says she founded the organization to fulfill a passion for serving. Paige quit her job on Christmas Eve 2017, to uphold that commitment full-time and to solely focus on her love: the youth.  

‘The streets will gobble you up.’

Paige, a D.C. native, was surrounded by the grittiness of Ward 8, the Districts largest ward, for over 50 years. Unstable and complicated, this life-defining relationship with Ward 8 is one she chooses to never forget— even with all the painful bruises, lamentable suffering, and unfortunate trials she has endured.

Paige’s life in the streets of Ward 8, as a child, she says, was never quite pleasant. During her adolescent years, Ward 8 rarely reciprocated the love that Paige emphatically offered it. According to Paige, in the past, Ward 8 was not the communal and uplifting area she knows today.

During her childhood, she describes herself as an obedient child, one who received good grades and respected others.

“I wasn’t a bad girl. I went to school and went home,” she said. Nonetheless, peer pressure slowly tiptoed into her life, during her teenage years and disrupted the peace of a sweet girl. Paige then began to be a good girl no longer, she emulated her peers and transformed into the one thing she never thought of herself: “a bad girl.”

Aummett, raised in a single-parent household without her father, always confided in her mother. After the death of her mother, compounded by peer pressure, she spiraled out of control and turned to drugs.”I began cutting class, and I eventually dropped out. The streets will gobble you up, and this is why I’m so passionate [about the youth]”, Aummett explained.

After seeking help through the Community Action Group, a local rehabilitation center, following her difficult times, Paige felt like she was “commissioned by God to help others.”

After that, she began to run the streets positively, dirtying her Nike’s, hitting the ground to promote hope for Ward 8 children.” “I saw myself in those children,” she said.

More than just a founder

The Youth Sports Association is a football organization and a small extension of the AMP Outreach Empowerment Center, where Aummett Paige spends some of her time diligently working with hundreds of inner-city youth, ages 5-13.

When the whistle blows –– a sharp, tinny sound ––  at the top of each football game, there’s a woman with a short blonde haircut in attendance, pacing back and forth on the sidelines. Paige is shouting and encouraging her football players to keep up the excellent work. She remains out of her seat to ensure that her football players are behaving and upholding the values of teamwork that she has taught them.  

Besides just being an instrumental voice on the sidelines, Paige has helped football players off the field.

Towanda Douglass, the mother of an Anacostia Steeler youth football player, recalls Paige assisting her with football fees. “She didn’t make me pay the whole fee, which helped me a lot! Plus, she paid for the majority of the uniforms and equipment.”

In her community, she has seen some counterproductive activities among the youth such as petty crime, gang activity, and gun violence, along with declining successful recreational programs.

Paige has created this program to provide productive recreational activities for the youth and keep them off the streets.

In an Urban Institute report,  Jennifer T. Comey, Mark Rubin, and Peter A. Tatian analyze the need for youth services in the nation’s capital. Their findings reveal more than half of the poor children of Washington, D.C. live in Wards 7 and 8; east of the Anacostia River. According to the statistics by the Census Reporter, 35.7% of Ward 8 residents live below the poverty line. Ward 8 houses 25,500 children in poverty, which is the largest of any ward. Considering violence is a symptom of poverty, the crime in Ward 8 is remarkably high. The District of Columbia, documented 160 homicides in 2018, 91 occurring in the district’s Southeastern and Southwestern quadrants.

Minister P. Irene Green, a 49-year Anacostia resident, recognizes Paige and her efforts to help the overlooked youth of Wards 7 and 8.

“Young African American males, especially those in Wards 7 and 8, are frequently neglected and seemingly go unnoticed unless they are involved in some menacing behavior,” Green said. “However, I am very appreciative of Aummett Paige and the work that her organization does to make an investment in the lives of the young men in our community. They deserve it.”

Zackeya Boatwright, the grandmother of an Anacostia Steeler football player, admires Paige’s dedication to the community and football, despite it being a male-driven sport.

“I admire all that Paige does in this community,” said Boatwright. “She’s a mentor to me. If it’s anything that the children or adults need, she’s only one phone call away. My daughter passed away, and my grandson needed an outlet, and she rolled down my street and gave that to him. I’m forever grateful for her.”

Paige has worked on The Anacostia AMP Outreach Empowerment Center & Youth Sports Association for over five years, four as an official organization. It is her mission to bring H.O.P. E back to the communities east of the river by providing educational support, mentoring, cultural arts, financial literacy, field trips, community events, and new youth sports teams.

Despite her misfortunes with drugs and the streets of Ward 8, she never gave up on the ward, even after it tried to “gobble her up.” Through her rocky relationship and a belligerent slugfest with Ward 8, she learned a valuable lesson: that even when you are down, you still have a fighter’s chance.

Most importantly, she influenced others to remain hopeful and to promote change. Today Paige lives and serves her community to the fullest, undeterred by her woes. Aummett says, “I hope to continue to educate and empower our kids. If I can only help save one kid, I did a service. I’m going to die doing this; I don’t care what it takes.”