By Okon Ekpenyong
In Columbus, several city leaders, including Mayor Andrew Ginther and Councilmember President Shannon Hardin, met on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to announce the city’s $20 million investment into over 90 nonprofit organizations to assist with summer programs to combat violence in Columbus’ streets.
There were more than 150 organizations that applied for the grants; however, 90 of them received the funding in hopes of increasing academic performance, safety improvement, keeping the kids fit and healthy, and setting the kids up to succeed.
We have a special obligation to continue making restorative investments in kids’ health and well-being to ensure they have the skills, knowledge, and experiences they need to succeed, both now and in the future,” said Mayor Ginther.
Mayor Ginther recently appointed Rena Shak, a former Judicial Candidate, the city and the state’s first-ever Director of the Office of Violence Prevention. Twenty-two states have OVP, particularly in democratically run cities. The Columbus Chapter will be under the guidance of Mayor Ginther, and he stated that due to the lack of gun restrictions at the State or Federal level and the increase in gun violence, it’s a must we act.
Among the guest speakers were Benita Reese, director of Parks, Recreation, and Carla Williams-Scott, director of the neighborhood.
The funds will also go towards training and employment opportunities, plus working towards improving academic performance.
When I was younger, I volunteered during the summer, particularly at nursing homes and community centers. It was through this experience that I gained work experience and met professionals who would serve as my mentors in the future.
Parents and community leaders are encouraged to volunteer with these organizations, as children often listen to those who have faced similar struggles as they have.
The park had a 95% increase in summer attendance last summer, and honestly, it’s a community effort”, Reese said.
A local Columbus Artist and Author, Donte Woods-Spikes, praises the initiative but also believes that where they are allocating or placing the funds makes a difference. In addition, he believes that it will be beneficial to conduct more data-driven analyses to determine what’s at stake, what works, and what does not work, as well as going back to the drawing board.
On August 19, 2023, at the Columbus Downtown Library, Donte Woods-Spikes will present his story and read from his book “so long” (unfinished business good-byes with the children of Covid-19). It is part of the library’s sesquicentennial author series, celebrating its 150th anniversary.
Faith without work is dead:
You can invest all the money in the world into these organizations; however, for it to work, we will need to have people that care, people that understand, and people that are going to be present to create those relationships that will make an impact.
I hope the city is gathering data to determine how adequate these resources are and how much difference it’s making.
What if you could take just a fraction of that money and give it back to the community or individuals who wish to volunteer or usually do it for free? We will be surprised by how much it will affect whatever an individual is trying to accomplish.
Donating and investing money into these programs will have no value if history repeats itself, and you will get the same result again.
Therefore, for this to work, we must shift how we utilize these resources and funds. Then you will see a significant difference in what happens to the kids over the summer or for generations to come.
In conclusion, Donte Woods-Spikes stated that one of the best strategies would be to figure out what these children need and set them up with the right mentors if we want to see growth in this initiative.
The city provided 19.7 million in 2021, 16.2 million in 2022, and 20.1 million this year to keep kids safe, active, and prosperous during summer break.
A few organizations catering to the refugee and immigrants communities also receive funding; for example, Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS): Summer STEAM; MY Project U.S.A.: Youth Empowerment Programming; Somali Community Link: Summer Youth Leadership Academy; Somali Community Association of Ohio: New American Youth Summer Workshop Series – Academic Achievement.
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