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Local organizations look to provide outlets for youth this summer

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Local organizations are looking to keep kids busy and out of trouble during the summertime.

Kids can play sports, go on trips and learn new skills through events and programs from local nonprofits.

Why it matters: Cities across the country are seeing an uptick in juvenile crime. According to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s first quarter public safety report, overall crime has increased by 7%, and juveniles are significant contributors.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department is preparing for additional patrolling and presence at youth gathering locations this summer to combat juvenile crimes.

“This cycle is happening time and time again. We continue to see juveniles commit serious crimes at higher rates,” Deputy Chief Tonya Arrington told reporters at a press briefing in April.

Local organizations look to work with CMPD to address the issue. Here is what they are doing. Here is what local organizations are doing.

Charlotte’s Alternatives to Violence Program

Charlotte’s Alternatives to Violence (ATV) Program was started in December 2021 to help decrease violent situations and help youth and young adults avoid trouble throughout the Beatties Ford corridors. 

The organization offers individualized interventions –like support with housing, employment, or in addressing trauma –that target individuals aged 14 to 25 identified as most at risk of violence.

Leondra Garrett, the site coordinator, said the organization has mediated over 150 violent situations and passed 30 participants through the program.

They partner with local schools, churches and organizations that refer troubled youth to ATV interrupters who help with behavioral issues and help find stay on track to accomplish other goals, like graduating or finding employment.

“We try to stay hands-on and continue to assess the needs of what they really need,” Garrett told QCity Metro.

Garrett said the organization plans to host several events, including cookouts and community pop-up markets for kids to participate in this summer.

Alternatives to Violence will also hold sporting events for kids to play basketball and football and take field trips to local entertainment venues and sports events.

How to connect: Visit their website.

Heal Charlotte

Heal Charlotte is a nonprofit focused on neighborhood revitalization, youth outreach, and improving police and community relations.

Founder Greg Jackson launched the organization in 2016 following the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Jackson said he saw a city that needed healing in the aftermath of protest in response to the shooting.

“We needed to pull some things from under the rug that we’ve been hiding as a city, so we can progress,” Jackson said.

Jackson has partnered with CMPD and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Officer to facilitate workshops to build community and law enforcement relations. 

He started the Dream Academy Youth Camp, an after-school program in the Hidden Valley Neighborhood.

The organization plans to host field trips for kids to see the Carolina Thunderbirds this summer.

How to connect: Visit their website.

Life Connections

Life Connections’ work goes back to 1997 when founder Glenn Smith instructed life skill classes at the Mecklenburg County detention center. 

The nonprofit focuses on supporting youth, primarily 7- to 17-years old, once out of jail by providing them with a support system.

Chablis Dandridge, director of operations, said providing youth with a sense of community is an essential part of decreasing recidivism. 

“It’s critically important to allow a person to know that, ‘Hey, listen, you might have made a mistake, but you’re still an important part of this community, and you still have a responsibility’,” he told QCity Metro.

For more than 25 years, the organization has worked with over 5,600 youth and their families, most of whom were referred by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Through its DASH (Developing Adolescents – Strengthening Homes) programs, an effort that provides youth with the opportunity to explore vocations, individual and family counseling and mentorship.

Life Connections plans to implement a workforce development initiative for participants to connect with professionals in inspiring fields, Dandridge said.

They also have plans to add a culinary program for youth to learn how to serve and cater food and operate a food truck.

How to connect: Visit their website

Save Our Children Movement Inc

Save Our Children Movement Inc (SOCM) is an organization that runs enrichment programs and hosts events for kids in the Charlotte area.

Founder Rodney McGill started the organization in 2014 after spending time incarcerated. He decided that he wanted to make a difference in the community and work with kids.

“When it comes to addressing crime in the community, it starts with children,” he said. “They are the most valuable resource in any community.”

SOCM has hosted a number of events, including food drives and school supply giveaways.

As an extension of the organization, McGill created The KEFA Academy, an afterschool program that offers tutoring and mentorship to youth from kindergarten through 12 grade.

Kids are offered lessons on personal and business development and financial literacy. They also take field trips across Charlotte.

How to connect: Reach out to McGill through his Facebook page.

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