KANSAS CITY, Mo. — You can count on nonprofit organizations like High Aspirations working to make moves to stay ahead of summer violence in Kansas City.
The group is a multi-faceted mentoring program that works with young black children and teens living in Kansas City.
"All we want to do is create a better community for young black men,” long-time member Kameron Durden said.
The nonprofit has 170 boys between the ages of 8 and 18 in the program and is looking at adding two staff members to further their reach and increase their membership to 210.
“Brotherhood on the streets ain't what it used to be and that concept of loyalty is not there anymore, well, at high aspirations it is,” High Aspirations President and CEO Henry Wash said. “We have the structure here to help create the safe place and safe space, ” he added.
Wash described his nonprofit as an organization that focuses on youth development by helping children achieve social, emotional, academic and spiritual success through mentoring opportunities,
Opportunities include volunteer events and having a designated space where children can hang out and get to know each other.
Other opportunities give members a chance to think about what's next through a game of life-size chess.
“It’s about learning who you are and identify that it's okay to be a Black man, to be okay with yourself and to be the best person that you can be and to accept other cultures,” Wash said.
Last year, members were able to achieve a cumulative 2.8 GPA, were engaged in 16,000 hours of community involvement and the majority were able to secure jobs after turning 18. As a member, Durden believes High Aspirations is a blue print of what can be done to make Kansas City safe.
“We have to start with the kids," Durden said. "If we don't give them the right idea or the right view, I would say then they're going to get the wrong information and do the wrong thing."
In 2020, High Aspirations added a back patio to its location at E. 27th Street and Charlotte Street. The extension includes soccer fields, community gardens and an additional meeting space. The additions were made possible through various donations including the JE Dunn Foundation.
The nonprofit continues to stress the importance of donations, which help add to its programming and providing meals for members.
“We've developed this area," Wash said. "We made this a safe place and I feel like that when you give and when you help, you can see the return on investment from a donor standpoint, it will make things safer."
More information about High Aspirations is available online.