Emerald Youth Launches “Imagine a City” Initiative to Support Knoxville’s Next Generation of Young Leaders


Record crowd of over 1,600 join to pray for city children

Knoxville, Tenn. – Emerald Youth Foundation today announced Imagine a City, a new initiative focused on raising the next generation of promising, Godly young leaders for Knoxville. Emerald Youth announced the multi-year initiative during the foundation’s annual prayer breakfast, which brought together a record crowd of guests at the Knoxville Expo Center.  

Steve Diggs, Emerald Youth President and CEO, was joined by Bill Sansom, The H.T. Hackney Co. Chairman and CEO, Charme Allen, Knox County District Attorney General, David Rausch, Knoxville Chief of Police, and 1,600 other Knoxville residents to pray for the children of the city.

“We believe that every child in every neighborhood deserves the opportunity for a full life – the kind of life Christ intended. For far too many children in our city, this is not the current reality,” said Diggs.

“The next several years are absolutely critical to our ability to ensure that this happens for more children in our city, and we are issuing a call to the community to help bring about transformation. If any city can truly change the trajectory for urban young people, it’s Knoxville. The Imagine a City initiative sets forth a new pathway to raise and support the leaders our city needs in urban neighborhoods,” he said.

Emerald Youth’s driving vision, based on John 10:10, is that Knoxville will become a city where every child, in every neighborhood, has the opportunity for a full life. The vision was formed as a response to Emerald’s urban youth study, and the ministry’s desire to focus on the next 10 years of work in the city.

The study found that of the more than 12,000 young people in urban Knoxville:

  • less than 15 percent are known to be engaged in faith development;
  • fewer than half of the youth do not have a mentor like a coach, tutor or youth worker; and
  • significant gaps exist for city children in learning and health outcomes.

Recognizing such challenges, Emerald Youth developed a model to help engage more young people in programs that are integral to raising well-rounded, healthy young leaders. The Youth Development Pipeline focuses on comprehensive outcomes at each stage of a child’s development.

The Imagine a City initiative sets forth two goals: (1) increase the number of children who are simultaneously involved in faith, learning and health activities, and (2) develop leaders who have successfully achieved the goals and metrics outlined the Emerald Youth Development Pipeline.

To achieve these goals, Emerald must increase staffing through recruiting and retaining talented, devoted employees, seek new community partners, and invest in facilities through increased philanthropic support, which will be vital to the progress of the Imagine a City initiative.

Learn more about the Imagine a City initiative and how you can get involved.

“One of my passions is encouraging others who are bound for leadership roles. The work being done by Emerald Youth is literally charting the course for some of those emerging leaders among our urban youth. The life-giving initiatives of Emerald Youth will impact our community for generations to come,” said Renda Burkhart, president Burkhart and Company, P.C.

“Our city will only ever be as successful as the leaders who comprise it. Emerald Youth has nearly three decades of experience in growing leaders from Knoxville’s urban neighborhoods, redefining what is possible for the thousands of young people they engage each year. Their impact on our city is significant, and they have my wholehearted endorsement,” said James Haslam, II, founder and chairman Pilot Corporation.

For more information on the Imagine a City initiative, visit EmeraldYouth.org or follow @EmeraldYouth on Twitter and Facebook.

John Crooks