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Y.B.Normal? co-leader Logan Taylor stands with The Howard School principal LeAndrea Ware, the 2019 Tennesee Principal of the Year, on the first day of school when Taylor addressed students. / Contributed photo by by Jonathan Royal of Royal Images

After a series of back-to-back shootings in 2015, Chattanooga natives Logan Taylor and Dontay Hampton decided to be there in a tangible way for their community by creating Y.B.Normal?, an organization aimed at providing support for troubled and underprivileged youth.

For Taylor, the show of violence was a cry for help from the next generation.

"I felt like they needed someone who would love them, pour into them, show them what it looks like to be successful," he said.

Since then, the pair has worked in schools all over the country, including many in Hamilton County, like East Ridge High and The Howard School. At the schools, they host motivational speaking events, free activities and provide curriculum to help students recognize and reach their individual potential.

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Y.B.Normal? co-leader Logan Taylor addresses the student body at East Ridge High School. / Contributed photo by by Jonathan Royal of Royal Images

Y.B.Normal?'s multi-week, in-school curriculum sessions are designed to help struggling youth improve their academics, learn soft skills and to provide emotional and social support.

Hampton said a big goal of the curriculum is to identify what talents and characteristics make each student unique. That could mean showing a fifth-grader who knows how to change a car's oil the pathway to becoming a mechanic, or helping a student realize that college is an option even if their parents didn't attend.

"Those are the kids that people have counted out and say that they'll never be great," said Taylor. "And so, you know, we want to say, no, this kid will be something, and let us show you the power and the ability that this kid has."

Regardless of current school performance or life circumstances, Y.B.Normal?'s programming is intended to see the potential in all kids, the founders say.

"Even though he might be struggling in math or science, you know, you still make that kid feel like he's able to accomplish something," said Hampton.

In their day-to-day interactions, the two friends said they aspire to push students to strive to be extraordinary, rather than normal, in everything that they do.

Their encouragement has had an impact. They heard that they helped prevent a student's suicide, and they have challenged and incentivized schools to raise grades and expectations, they said.

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Y.B.Normal? co-leader Logan Taylor speaks to students at McCallie Middle School. / Contributed photo by by Jonathan Royal of Royal Images

The two have plans to expand and grow Y.B.Normal? by releasing a new book while maintaining their foundational commitment to offer mentorship in their hometown.

They believe the organization is about much more than just themselves.

"At the end of the day, it's not about us," Taylor said. "It's about inspiring others and being a light for the community."

For more information about Y.B.Normal?, such as bookings and upcoming events, visit ybnormal.co or check out their social media accounts: on Twitter @ybnormal2016, Instagram @y.b.normal2016 and Facebook @YBNormal2016.

Email Tierra Hayes at tierrahayes@southern.edu.

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