KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City’s Urban Rangers are working to catch young people before the streets do.
The rangers hope their work can permanently divert the school-to-prison pipeline prevalent in five Kansas City zip codes that are hotbeds for crime.
The program tasks at-risk youth with working out their brains and bodies.
The young men in the program are all between the ages of 12 and 17.
Once in the program, they perform at least 20 hours of community service and summer projects. They also have to maintain good attendance at school and at least a 2.3 grade point average.
Those who stick with the program are eligible to receive college assistance.
It’s that college assistance that sophomore Jeremiah Williams is looking forward to.
“The college I want to go to is Georgetown,” Williams said.
More than 85 percent of the kids involved live below the poverty line, and 75 percent come from a single parent household.
The group pulls 80 percent of its rangers from one of five target zip codes: 64110, 64127, 64128, 64132.
The fifth zip code is one Urban Ranger Corps President Erik Dickinson recalls reading about.
“64130. An area of Kansas City, the murder factory of Kansas City.”
In the last 10 years, nearly 700 young men have come through the program, with 98 percent have successfully completing the program.
Those who fall short serve as a cautionary tale.
“We have a young man through our program a few years ago that’s in jail right now for murder,” Dickinson recalls. “Every story isn’t a positive story, so we like to keep it real as they say.”
People who think crime can’t happen in their neighborhood should think again.
“What’s to say that same plague won’t find its way to Olathe, or Lee’s Summit? I think we have to find a way to save the city.”
Learn more about the Urban Rangers program on their website.