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Mentoring program aims to steer Kansas City youth away from violence

Posted at 6:29 PM, Jul 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-04 20:28:22-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City is on pace to break records with nearly 100 homicides so far this year.

Many community activists have called for more mentors to help the city's young population and deter them from the life of crime.

One of those mentoring programs is High Aspirations. They have been around since 2003 and help mentor children from the ages of 8 to 18.

"We’re supporting them socially, emotionally, academically and spiritually," said Henry Wash, High Aspirations Founder and President.

Right now, there are nearly 70 mentees in the program and many of them attended a ceremony on Saturday congratulating them on transitioning from elementary school to middle or high school. Many of the mentees were given awards for various accomplishments throughout the year.

"We really want people to know that there are great people still out here doing great programs for youth and they’re doing it in a safe way," said Wash.

Since its inception, the program has grown. Just last year, Wash and volunteers helped renovated a building on East 27th Street and Charlotte Street. There's a game room and areas for the mentors to hang out with the kids.

"We’re just so excited because this is something that's building relationships. Every day starts with relationships number one," added Wash.

This program is aimed at helping Black boys succeed in life.

"We did research that says a lot of our young men don’t know how to be decent and so we’re teaching them how to be decent," said Wash.

One of the mentees is 11-year-old Jaden Johnson. "I learned things that I never knew before, and like, if I have any issues I talk to my mentor," said Johnson. "They talk to us like how to be a good person whenever you’re growing up, going to colleges and what colleges you want to go to."

Garry Buycks is one of those mentors helping these kids navigate through life.

"Put our lives on display and say this is who we are; this is what we do and we give these young men and opportunity to see a different way to live," said Buycks.

With the on-going violence in the city, Wash said one way to cut down on youth crime is to build a relationship with the kids.

"If I could talk to someone and talk to them and let them know it’s not worth it, that we love them, that’s another life we can save and so I feel like that should be the approach," added Wash.

Having that one person to look up to can be that difference.

"You have to catch these young boys early before they get in trouble," said Dana Nelson, High Aspirations board member.

"Programs like this really just give opportunity for these young men to have a family-type experience where we serve a father role, right so that’s a major part of the family and I think that’s something that lacks in a lot of communities," added Buycks.

Wash wants to double the number of kids they serve so they are looking for mentors.

If you would like to mentor or help the organization out financially, click here.