Youth organization works to reduce gun violence through mentorship

A Butler County non-profit organization uses mentoring and after-school programs to reduce incidents of gun violence among youth.

Hamilton Young People Empowered began six years ago with a focus on helping teens become involved in the community and learn skills such as personal development, financial literacy and job preparation, a said Pastor Shaquila Mathews, who founded the organization.

Since then, the association has evolved to offer sports, music, study and mentoring programs, becoming a haven for teens who wish to get away from negative home environments.

Mathews said many of these programs came from “noticing the needs in the community and noticing that teens don’t really have a place to really be, because a lot of organizations they have between 12 and 13 years, so there is nowhere else for them going. “

According to the Hype website, students as young as 6 and 18 can participate in the programs.

Regarding its work against gun violence, Mathews said the organization speaks to young people about violence and provides them with a place to go to avoid “downtime”. Hype’s Kick Back program, for example, gives teens a safe place to stay after school hours while their parents are at work.

Adolescents need to have a positive environment, “somewhere so they can just be teenagers (and) not have to worry about violence,” Mathews told The Enquirer.

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Hype is also partnering with Street Rescue, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit, to conduct gun buybacks, remove unwanted guns from the community before those guns can be used in a crime.

But perhaps the most key aspect in tackling gun violence among youth is mentoring, according to Mathews.

“Having a mentor is powerful,” she said, adding that for teens, especially young men, it is important to have someone to talk to about their insecurities and feelings and to help them. to build their self-confidence.

Hype typically has 50 to 75 teens participating in its after-school mentoring program and around 35 to 40 teens participating in the program for eight weeks over the summer, Mathews said.

Experts say having an “adult-child supportive relationship” can be a powerful way to protect young people from trauma, and that includes mentoring programs.

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Mathews said it was crucial for small nonprofits like Hype that work directly with the community to have funding.

“So that’s where it comes in with these relationships with the city government to be able to allocate those dollars to organizations like me to really get the job done, to help prevent (violence), and if not prevent, to help stand in the gap to be a resource, ”she said.

“You’re not going to touch all young people, but if you can touch the majority and help change their lives, they can go back and influence others,” said Mathews. “And that’s what it’s going to take.”

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