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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Summer youth camps mobilize against violence

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With the arrival of summer vacation from school, many youth now have extra time on their hands.

Area summer camps are working to make sure local children and teens don’t use that extra time to become crime statistics.

“Getting kids involved in something that uses their energy in a positive way over the summer is very important because it can help deter violence,” said Rev. Malachi Walker, incoming pastor of Great Commission Church of God and founder of Young Men Inc., a local youth advocacy organization he operates with the church.

For more than 20 years, Walker has worked in the community as a mentor and peace activist, yet tragedy came to his own family in the summer of 2008 when his daughter, Chanelle Walker, was shot and killed in a robbery at her residence.

The incident made Walker even more committed to preventing youth from becoming like the people who killed his daughter.

“They need to be involved in some type of structured program throughout the summer,” he said. “That keeps them off the street and from wanting to get involved in some negative things that could hurt someone, or land them in juvenile, jail or dead.”

Walker’s Young Men Inc. summer camp provides community service projects, field trips and workshops that teach anti-gang awareness, conflict resolution, interactive games, physical fitness and academic preparedness. This summer the camp is being held from June 5 to Aug. 12, and parents are invited to sign their sons up this week.

Young Men Inc. is among many community organizations offering positive activities for youth this summer.

Various churches are offering camps, along with large groups such as the Boys & Girls Club of Indianapolis, the YMCA and neighborhood organizations like the Forest Manor Multi-Service Center, the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center and the Community Alliance of the Far Eastside.

Barato Britt, deputy director of the Edna Martin Christian Center, said it offers its summer programs not just for recreation, but to also keep youth academically sharp.

“Some students may not hold on to some of what they learned during the school year, and there needs to be programming to address that head-on,” Britt said.

City officials have also made summer activities for youth a high priority, with the City of Indianapolis recently announcing that $84,000 in federal community grants were awarded to several local agencies that provide enrichment opportunities for youth, including a few of those listed above.

Mayor Greg Ballard said organizations that received the grants did so because they provide well-rounded activities.

“It is important to add value to traditional summer youth programs by providing important educational and cultural enrichment activities such as the arts, literacy, community service, and college and career exploration,” Ballard said.

Also, the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation provides summer programs at its parks throughout the city.

More access

Many families would like to get youth enrolled in summer programs, but cannot afford the fees associated with them. Therefore, some camp operators, especially those supported by grants, are offering a full range of activities at reduced costs.

Young Men Inc.’s $50 fee, for example, includes everything from breakfast and lunch and field trips, to uniforms, backpacks, journals, a college tour, transportation to and from the camp and a trip to the Kings Island theme park, which will be given as an award to participants.

“We need more programs that reach out to an audience such as Black males and help them stay on track,” said Walker.

Edna Martin’s program, which now has a waiting list, offers field trips, academic refreshing, swimming and other activities for $25 a week.

“Some families qualify for waivers, but we try to keep it affordable overall,” Britt said.

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