KANSAS CITY, Mo. - For the first time since he took office, Mayor Sly James delivered his state of the city address to hundreds of teens at Park Hill High School.
The mayor chose the venue to emphasize the importance that young people have in the city.
“It’s clear to me that young people need some level of guidance,” Mayor James said.
Mayor James also emphasized the need for non-profits, churches and other members of the community to step up in positively influencing the city’s youth.
“They need solid direction, they need hope,” he said. “They need a quality education and they need to know that somebody out there gives a damn about them."
The mayor announced that the city will renew its $400,000 summer youth program which includes Mayor’s Nights and Club KC.
“Why shouldn’t we care as much about our human capital as we do about physical infrastructure, roads, bridges and things of that type?” he said.
He said more youth programs are needed to give teens something to do during the summer when they aren’t in school. He thinks that could prevent violent scenes like last summer at the Country Club Plaza and this month at the Kansas City Zoo where eight people were arrested after shots were fired during the zoo’s free admission day.
Torrence Ray couldn’t agree more with Mayor James’ speech.
“However, it is half tackling the issue,” Ray said, “because you have to think about when they’re on Christmas break, the winter break, the spring vacations,"
Ray is the founder of Stop The violence KC, a non-profit organization, and started an afterschool mentorship program to keep kids busy once a month.
“My son is 10 years old,” he said. “Soon he'll be a teen, he'll be faced with these same elements and I just want to show him that there are different ways, you don’t have to go this route."
Nearly 12,000 teens went to Mayors’ Nights last summer; nearly 9,000 went to Club KC. The mayor said there weren’t any reports of fights or arrests.
"Everybody got along,” he said.