Deeper Meanings: 2017 AWE Holiday Ornament

Seasons Greetings from AWE! There has never been a better time to spread cheer and creativity. We’ve partnered with a local artist to create a product to help you create memories with friends and family on your list. Read the inspiring story about the project, and the creative people behind them. 

Young boy in a purple shirt stands at a podium.

Elijah Ashley-Youngblood speaks to a crowd during the celebration of the board up project (center). Our Next Generation President and CEO La Toya Sykes (right) listens on.

Speaking to a crowd of peers, and city leaders, Our Next Generation youth participant Elijah Ashley-Youngblood said, “What you see in front of you is just a candle right? Nothing more, nothing less. You look at this and ask internally, does this have a deeper meaning than what lies in the surface. The answer is yes.”


Share a creative light and memories with loved ones with AWE’s holiday ornament. The design for the ornament came from the Artistic Board-Up project at 3907 W. Vliet St. With support from the City of Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services, this project was created by youth from Our Next Generation, and professional local artists Leilani Lopez and Fred Kaems.

The ornament was made by professional engraver Akai Coit.

AWE 2017 Holiday ornament (front).

The candle is seen in the board-up project, as a way to reflect the light of Vliet St. and the neighborhood. The ornament uses the same candle image in memory of Sareyi Ahmed, who participated in early planning sessions of the board-up project, but due to a tragic swimming accident, wasn’t able to participate in the final celebration.

Young African boy takes a photo of himself.

Sareyi Ahmed (family provided the photo).

Sareyi had recently completed the 8th grade at Clara Mohammed School and wanted to attend Bradley Tech High School in the fall, but drowned while swimming with friends on July 18, 2017.

At the final celebration of the artistic board-up project, youth from ONG, staff at AWE and the City of Milwaukee rallied around Sareyi’s parents and his four siblings to present them with a 2017 Holiday Ornament as a way to honor Sareyi’s contribution to the project. Elijah, a friend of Sareyi’s added, “Even when the wind is blowing against the existence of the flame, the flame still stands and grows stronger than it was.”

The back of the AWE holiday ornament.

AWE values Sareyi’s and Elijah’s contributions to this project, and we’re confident that as an organization, we can strengthen youth voice and grow stronger as a community.