COLUMBUS (WCMH) – This weekend’s tragic new homicide numbers are shining a light on the work ahead for the city of Columbus to reduce the violence it’s seeing.
One local non-profit called “My Project USA” is working to help reduce the 51 new homicides Columbus is seeing through one of their soccer programs that is a part of Mayor Andrew Ginther’s Reimagining Safety plan.
Monday night, Columbus City Council gave $75,000 towards the program, which works toward empowering the youth. Now, a portion of that money will be going to the Hilltop Tiger’s Soccer team.
“Young people are really having a hard time in the pandemic,” said council member Elizabeth Brown.
She said the program was created back in 2017 when the crime rates were high in the Hilltop area and believes it helped reduce some violence through soccer.
“Unfortunately, when people struggle, sometimes they turn to activities that are not productive,” Brown said.
According to soccer coach Siyat Mohamed, this program goes beyond giving kids a place to play and have fun.
“We tie the love of the sport to education,” Siyat Mohamed said. “We make it a requirement to have a good GPA, to have good attendance, to have good behavior.”
Coach Mohamed and soccer director Aden Mohamed said that as kids, they wish they could’ve been exposed to an opportunity like this. They know it can be easy to fall into the wrong path.
“Approximately 2,000 children live in the Wedgewood Village community and they saw a significant spike in violence,” they said.
Now, some of that same violence is hitting home to some of these kids.
“We’ve actually lost two young brothers in our neighborhood,” Aden Mohamed said.
He said that although the boys weren’t among their team, their players knew some of the victims and constantly interacted with them.
One 13-year-old player said he’s happy to see this program expanding and hoping to see more central Ohioans involved, and not just people from the Hilltop area.
“I think children my age need this because of our environment. I feel like soccer is an outlet to help us do better,” said player Gulled Osnan.
However, to get more players, they need more financial support and soccer coaches, but are planning a soccer league this summer.
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