CHICAGO - At a time when many people are feeling lost, a Gary, Indiana teen is sharing her personal journey for finding hope. At a young age, she lost both of her brothers to gun violence.
Aaliyah Stewart is 19-years-old and she just purchased a building that will soon be opening as a youth center. She is driven to help those in despair.
"At 7-years-old I lost my brother Anthony who was 16. At 13 I lost my brother James who was 20 and I did not let that hold me down,” she said.
At the age of 14, Stewart started the "I Am Them" foundation. She appeared on national television with her message. She has also held seminars for youth, hosted toy drives and provided scholarships.
"I feel like when I go out and help other young people, it's like helping my brothers. It's continuing their legacy and living their legacy. I preach to a lot of young people to lay a legacy and not a reputation,” Stewart said.
But the ultimate goal is finally coming into view. By the end of the year, she plans to open a youth center, with computers, career workshops, music classes and most importantly, support.
"A lot of times with young people, they're so busy trying to be other people that they don't know how to be themselves. They don't know how to love themselves. So showing love instead of teaching them survival is key,” she said.
Playing a role in the new center will be a man who killed one of her brothers. Recently released from prison, Stewart says she has forgiven him and believes there is value in his story.
"One bad thing doesn't define your life but when God gives you a second chance, it's about what you do with it. It's not about how you fall, it's about how you get up,” she said.
Stewart needs to raise $50,000 to renovate the center and pay for the first year of expenses. You can donate by going to iamthem.org.