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Str8Up Life Ministries aims to empower Indy urban youth

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The mission of Str8Up Life Ministries is to help kids in urban communities break the cycle of poverty.

Now they’re looking to expand and help more kids in Indianapolis.

“There’s a sense of despondency right now in youth culture, especially in urban youth culture,” said Str8Up Life founder Aaron Wilson. “For our teens, Str8Up is a bright touch point every week.”

Aaron and Jill Wilson founded the organization 17 years ago to help urban youth living in poverty and the dangerous lifestyle that often comes with it.

It’s grown from their front yard into a youth mentoring camp that reaches about 1,000 kids a year.

“I really don’t know where I would be without them,” said 23-year-old Brionna Tyson, who started attending at 7-years-old. “It’s like you get church on Sundays, but through the weekdays you have Mr. Aaron and Miss Jill.. just so they can try to keep you away from the streets.”

The organization works with schools to reinforce lessons of leadership, academics and life skills in kids who often deal with poverty, broken homes, gangs and drugs.

They’ve inspired others to volunteer, like Pastor Kenneth Johnson, the Indianapolis Colts Chaplain.

“By changing their heart, they can change their behavior, and by changing their behavior, they can change the outcome of their life,” said Pastor Johnson.

At camp, the kids play basketball, ride horses and kayak. They have time to just be kids, but they also learn how to stay safe when they leave camp.

“They say, ‘I feel like a kid again, this was the childhood I never had,’” Wilson said. “When we hear those words, [it] keeps us going.”

Moving forward, organizers say they have two goals: to reach more kids and more donors.

They do all of this work for free, so the organization is having a fundraiser on October 28 at the Colts Complex.

Click here or check out their Facebook page to learn more.