INDIANAPOLIS — A local organization that serves as advocates for the Indianapolis community is hoping to reach even more families than it already does. People Makers Indy provides prevention and intervention programs with the goal to help kids and adults improve their lives and be successful.
"I was an angry kid," Antonio Stewart said. "I always had a lot of issues in school, issues with my family."
Stewart grew up on Indy's northeast side. When he was 13, he started working with Matthew Thompson from People Makers Indy, after a probation case manager referred him to the organization.
"Processing guilt, taking ownership and accountability of things he had said or done was something we worked through," Thompson, co-CEO of People Makers explained.
Both Thompson and co-CEO Candace Robinson have backgrounds in education. They started People Makers Indy six years ago after they saw a need in the community.
"We see a lot of time where there may be barriers or things that happened where kids aren't able to get their diploma or they don't know what to do after they graduate and they get into a lot of trouble because of their environment," Robinson said.
People Makers Indy was recently awarded a $10,000 crime prevention grant from the city in order to expand their efforts.
The first step to recruit more families will take place on Oct. 2 at Grassy Creek Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. where they will be holding a park cleanup with the goal to pay 75 youths a stipend to help beautify the area.
"We're not going to stop at just OK, there's a park cleanup and we're doing an event," Robinson said. "We want to continue to provide services for them."
People Makers Indy also provides after-school programs, as well as assist families whom many of them take care of foster children.
"Most of the children who have been in foster care have already been through a lot of trauma. Just the initial move from the parents is trauma itself," Latosha Walker explained. "So, once you get the child and then you get them in school and figure out where they're lacking, People Makers help with the tutoring and after-school assistance."
People Makers Indy aims to provide stability and connect families with resources to help advance their education beyond high school.
"If it's after-school tutoring, we can help. If it's talking to a school to see where your credits are, we can help. If it's a job placement, job readiness, we could help," Thompson said.
They mainly focus their efforts on the city's east side. For Robinson, it's a mission she's passionate about.
"I grew up on the east side of Indianapolis. I've seen a lot. I've lost a lot of youth through gun violence and things like that," Robinson said. "So, I know I've seen it work when I'm able to really get in there and work with the holistic of the family, working with the parents, working with the mom, the dad, whoever the caregiver is. We've seen a lot of success."
Through the support from People Makers, Stewart graduated from Lawrence Central High School and is now playing football at Iowa Wesleyan.
"It means a lot because I know where I was at and where I am now, and it's crazy," Stewart said. "A lot of people counted me out and I didn't think I would even be in these types of positions, but I always knew that even when I was getting in trouble I knew I wanted to go to college and better myself eventually."
Stewart added that he hopes to one day give back to youth in his community and serve as a mentor, just like People Makers has done for him.
For more information and to take part in the Grassy Creek Park cleanup event, e-mail Candace Robinson at CRobinson@peoplemakersindy.com.