Calling it the “right program at the right time,” the YMCA of Greater Charlotte has teamed up with the city of Charlotte, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and others to launch a summer initiative designed to keep teens off the streets and provide healthy alternatives in some of the city’s high-poverty, high-crime areas.
The “Summer of Opportunity” initiative will focus on teens ages 13-18 in Charlotte’s northwest, west and east corridors, organizers said Monday in announcing the program.
Teens who participate will get free access to YMCA facilities each Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The program will run from June 23 through Aug. 5 at a cost of $100,000, the YMCA said. (The city of Charlotte and the YMCA will split the cost evenly, according to a statement sent to local media.)
Organizers said they also are looking to recruit 350 volunteers to assist at the three locations – the McCrorey YMCA on Beatties Ford Road, the Stratford Richardson YMCA on West Boulevard and the Simmons YMCA on Democracy drive in east Charlotte.
Organizers said the initiative would allow teens to “socialize with friends in activities like basketball, swimming, fitness and art.” Participating youth also will get free meals provided by CMS.
The timing of this initiative is no coincidence.
It comes as Charlotte, like other major cities, has a rise in violent crime, including homicide, in recent months. Many of those local suspects and victims have been African American males in their teens and early 20s.
Todd Tibbits, CEO of the Charlotte-area YMCA, said the goals of the program are in line with recommendations offered by the Opportunity Task Force, which called for early interventions in the lives of young people to increase economic mobility.
He said the Summer of Opportunity will “fill in the idle gaps during the idle times,” when teens are most likely to find trouble.
“We believe this is the right program at the right time,” he said.
Ken Burton, who chairs the community impact committee for the YMCA’s corporate board, said he hopes volunteers will step forward.
“These are our children, this is our city, and this is our time to make the difference that we need to make in their lives and in the health of our city,” said Burton, who works for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. “So I’m really excited about it. I think it shows a lot of promise.
Organizers said the program was based on successful models in Baltimore and Los Angeles.
So far, three community-based organizations — 100 Black Men of Charlotte, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity – have agreed to send volunteers, officials said.
Herb Gray, a member of 100 Black Men and Omega Psi Phi, said he worked with the YMCA to develop the program and will be on hand for its implementation.
“This is a great opportunity for Charlotte and a great opportunity for our young people as it relates to giving them positive outlooks,” he said.
To volunteer, visit http://www.ymcacharlotte.org/summerofopportunity