COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Hundreds of Columbus youth are taking part in a summer program that will keep them engaged and proactive over the summer.

Through a six-week program, the Columbus Urban League offers teens between the ages of 14 and 18 the chance to learn from experienced professionals in several different career fields. Participants also receive workplace readiness, training and pay of up to $15 an hour.

“This is how we keep our young people engaged in positive ways for the summer,” Stephanie Hightower, president and CEO of the Columbus Urban League, said.

David Helm, a former participant in the summer youth program, said his time with the Columbus Urban League changed his life.

Helm, now a Wild Indigo nature coordinator with Grange Insurance Audubon Center, said the experiences he had during the six-week program led him to the career he has today.

Tasked with engaging central Ohio’s communities of color in nature programming, Helm said connecting people with nature was a life-long passion, but it hadn’t fully developed until he joined Columbus Urban League’s summer program.

“I was surrounded by people who looked like me, you know learning soft skills, going through workforce development, and really professionalizing us that we really don’t get in our communities a lot,” Helm said.

Hightower said the Columbus Urban League plans to enroll more than 600 students into this year’s program.

Not only does the six-week course provide kids with success, but Hightower said it also keeps them away from crime and violence during the summer months.

“We have to provide opportunities where our young people can engage, and this is one of those ways we believe that we can keep kids in a positive light, that they won’t get involved in negative activities,” she said.

The summer youth program, which runs from June 20 to July 29, is sponsored through the Franklin County Commissioners. To sign up, visit the Columbus Urban League’s website.