COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The City of Columbus is making another historic investment in summer youth programming.
City leaders announced Tuesday they will put a total of $20.1 million towards summer programs for the city’s youth, a 25 percent increase over last year’s investment, which was an all-time high.
The ultimate goal is to prevent violence, enrich education, and set teens up for their future.
“Well, I think there is a pretty strong correlation to updating our comprehensive safety strategy and seeing homicides and violent crime drop by 33 percent last year,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther. “That was also the year we made a $16 million historic investment in summer youth resources, increasing that again while continuing to fund intervention.”
The mayor is pointing fingers at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for many of the struggles these youth are facing. He said no one has been more negatively impacted by the pandemic than the city’s children. Ginther said that over the last three years, youth have faced increased isolation, mental strains, and academic losses causing increased risky behavior.
Ginther said it’s time the city steps up for the kids.
“As a community, we have to stand up for them, invest in them, hold them accountable, correct them and discipline them as well to make sure that they are successful and healthy moving forward,” he said.
More than $11 million will go to city-sponsored programs, which include low-cost summer camps, paid jobs and internships. Jobs are available through the city’s parks and recreation department as well as others. Some jobs like lifeguarding will pay $20 an hour.
“Summer jobs put extra dollars in our young people’s pockets, they keep folks out of trouble allowing them to participate in meaningful ways in our community as young people,” Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said.
The internships will allow teens to get real-world experience while also discovering their passion.
Nevaeh Lipson is a summer intern with the African American Male Wellness Agency. She said this internship opened doors to another internship at a law firm and helped her prepare to go off to college in the fall. She wants to encourage all teens to investigate the program.
“I believe that many people would have the same passions and we can speak to one another and grow relationships with one another, and it will make the community much better, much stronger and better connected,” Lipson said.
The city is also planning to award nearly $9 million to be distributed among more than 90 community organizations.
Some organizations are established; others are just getting off the ground. This investment will be officially voted on at the next city council meeting.
“In order to reach the younger people that maybe we haven’t been able to reach with different hours with different strategies we had to be more creative,” Ginther said.
There will be camps for kids during the day, internships in all fields, plus evening events for teens.
“I can address that we have late-night basketball this summer which we have held at many of our locations. That’s our teens, that’s our middle age group that we will be focusing on. Then we also have our tips program, teens impact program, and so they go to various neighborhoods throughout the city and they do pop-up events in the evening. These are events that will really cater to teens, the middle school age group and really trying to keep them active after the hours where we are seeing some of the activity take place,” said Bernita Reese, the Columbus Parks and Recreation Director.
City leaders believe this will be the perfect recipe to reach their goals — reducing youth violence and setting them up for their futures.
The city says many of these organizations have built a rapport with the youth and will meet them where they are. They hope to get as many youths involved as possible, especially those at risk of going down a troubled path.
“We don’t like to say at risk we call them at promise because there is a promise for all of our children. So we are working with a lot of those organizations that we know have the ability to reach our young people,” said Carla Williams-Scott, the Director of the Columbus Department of Neighborhoods.
The mayor is also calling on parents and guardians to keep a close eye on their kids and potentially set a curfew this summer to keep them out of trouble.
Click here to see the full list of organizations that will receive funding this summer.