Indy’s youth summer programs seek to offer young people safe, fun space

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INDIANAPOLIS — The violent crime across the city is costing young people their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. It is a tragic cycle which some outreach organizers are trying to combat.

“Our goals are to try to break that cycle,” Lauren Rodriguez, Director of Office of Public Health and Safety, said. “Try to give them things to look forward to, resources to connect with and making that connection with them at an earlier age is the best way to break that cycle.”

OPHS is offering their annual Safe Summer programming again this year. It’s happening at three locations every Friday night beginning June 11: Municipal Gardens, Bethel Park and Douglass Park. The activities take place from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.

Organizers hope students gain new skills while having fun this summer.

“Instead of using guns, let’s box,” Rodriguez said. “Let’s learn how to box. Let’s get our anger out in different ways.”

OPHS said they hope students feel supported each week, despite any negative circumstances in their environments. This year, they also want to help connect them to mental health resources.

“Services that address traumatic issues that have happened,” Rodriguez said.

Brandon Randall, Director of Engagement at VOICES Corp., has cared for young people for 14 years. VOICES is also offering some summer programming that involves leadership development. He wants young people to be heard.

“A lot of times we diminish or minimize what young people have gone through,” Randall said. “I think that’s why we’re seeing such an increase of young people participating in violent crime.”

Randall underscores how difficult the work is to combat issues that can lead to crime, like poverty, unemployment, access to mental health care. But he believes young people need someone to show they care and will be a consistent part of their lives.

“We believe in audacious hope which means we are with those kids in the trenches,” Randall said. “We’re with them when the situations get tough, when it’s ugly, when it’s sad, when it’s overwhelming. But we also walk with them with their successes. We also have students that have gotten jobs, they’ve gotten their GEDs, they’ve started their own businesses.”

VOICES has several Power & Purpose 6-week-long cohorts starting soon. These are for young people 13 to 24. If you would like more information, reach out to Randall at brandall@voicescorp.org.

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