Emerald Youth Foundation holds annual prayer breakfast

By Ken Lay

Emerald Youth Foundation President and CEO Steve Diggs kept it simple as he made his remarks at the organization’s annual prayer breakfast Friday morning,

“The time is now,” Diggs said in his opening remarks as he addressed many supporters who braved some early morning showers and answered an early wake-up call to attend the annual breakfast at the Knoxville Expo Center. “The time is now for our youth in East Knoxville.”

Diggs announced plans to build a complex in East Knoxville, which is similar to the Sansom Sports Complex on Dale Avenue.

The complex will be built in a seldom used parking lot within walking distance of Austin-East Magnet High School.

“We are grateful for the leadership of Mayor (Indya) Kincannon and to members of the city council,” Diggs said. “We are going to pray to ask God for the means and the money to build this complex.”

Several community leaders, including Kincannon, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay were in attendance Friday morning at the event, which is one of Emerald Youth’s annual fundraisers.

The morning’s program, emceed by WVLT news anchor Ted Hall, included a scripture reading and call to worship as well as a musical performance by the EYF’s youth choir, The Emerald Youth Voices, which was conducted by Jasmine Andrews.

The alumni from the Emerald Academy spoke about the impact that the foundation had on their lives while growing up in the inner city.

“My parents always wanted the best for my brother and me. I had great parents and the people and Emerald Youth were like a second family to me,” said Zach Hurley. “I played sports at Emerald Youth gave me opportunities to experience things that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise experience.

“It wasn’t always easy. I faced a lot of adversity in my life and I appreciate the services like tutoring. I wasn’t always eager to do my homework.”

Angeline Irankuda also attended Emerald Academy after immigrating from Tanzania. She is now a senior at Austin-East and is preparing to attend college.

“My family came here from Tanzania and we lived in Georgia before coming to Knoxville and I had to learn the language,” she said. “I want to thank the foundation for making me the person that I am today.”

Cumecus Cates, now 26, graduated from Emerald Academy. He went on to high school where he played basketball. He later attended college and graduated with an MBA.

“I spent my formative years in Western Heights and I lost my mother and my grandmother,” Cates said. “I was always competitive in football, basketball and soccer. When I went to Fulton, we got to experience what winning a championship was like.

“Emerald Youth prepared me to go to college where I played basketball and graduated with an MBA.”