Rise Above Festival offers alternative to bad influences

Organizers of an event meant to inspire youth to make proper choices and to rise above negative influences claim a rash of violence and increased drug usage experienced in Lycoming County this year give a sense of urgency to the activities in Brandon Park on Aug. 31.

“When any city experiencing a rise in violent activities such as shootings, homicides and drug usage, there is always a need for an inspirational event to encourage a community rise above and stand against negative influences,” said Bianca Hooper, coordinator of fourth-annual Rise Above Festival, scheduled between 2 and 9 p.m.

“We want to inspire community youth and their families to make the right choices and to help families bond,” she said. “We are not out there to protest. We are trying to encourage youth, families and residents to rise above negative influences and take a positive stand against them and make positive life decisions.”

Co-sponsored by the city, the event features performances by gifted musicians on the stage at the Dr. Kenneth Cooper Bandshell and several speakers, according to Hooper.

Performances are anticipated by Grammy winning artist – Loni Gamble and the Sound Cheque, Gareth Murray and Aaron Thomas, from Showtime at the Apollo, a theater in New York City’s Harlem section.

“I believe education is key in preventing violent activities,” said Vaughn Wilson, of State College, a coordinator with Hooper.

When Wilson lived in the city, he volunteered at the former Campbell Street Family and Youth Center and for the active Community Alliance for Progressive Positive Action.

“We need to challenge youth to make positive choices and to rise above whatever negative influences they face,” he said. “Our goal is to inspire the community to rise above negative influences in or around the community by encouraging people to make positive life decisions that impacts in a positive way,” he said.

“We encourage people to take a stand against violent activities and inappropriate behaviors such as illegal drug use, shootings and other violence that has taken place in the city and county,” Hooper added.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, who is planning to attend, will lead the audience in a moment of silence, Hooper said.

Campana said he encouraged families to come to the park for the food, music and to hear the speakers share their wisdom.

In addition to the entertainment, the festival will offer musical education activities for youth such as a talent competition and a scholarship scavenger hunt.

The scavenger hunt offers start-up college funds to youth who win the contest. All youth ages 8 through 18 are eligible by going online at to register.