INDIANAPOLIS — For Fletcher and LaShauna Triplett, trustworthy, respectful, and independent people are more than just words; these character traits are at the center of the work they do every day.
As the co-founders of ML & Trip Outreach Center on N. Sherman Drive, they have been working together to transform lives in the community since 2013.
"He teaches us TRIP every day, that's the main thing he wants us to learn is to be trustworthy, to be respectful, and to be an independent person, that's really the main thing," Warren Central junior Taysean said.
Fletcher began mentoring Taysean several years ago. "I met up with him when I started getting in trouble in school and started getting suspended and expelled. He actually changed my life around to where I stopped getting in trouble and now I'm on A-B honor roll," Taysean said.
Taysean is one of more than 50 kids spending their summer at the northeast side outreach center. He's taking part in ML & Trip's workforce development program, which is part of their crime prevention initiative.
"We are teaching them alternatives to drugs, alternatives to crime, we are teaching them how to earn an honest living," LaShauna Triplett said. "Some of our scholars may not go to college, but we're teaching them that they can go out and make an earnest living, that they don't have to rob or steal or kill to get the things they want."
With grant money from the Marion County Department of Child Services & the Central Indiana Community Foundation, students in the workforce development program earn a stipend for their work mowing lawns in the community.
"They're really getting a better understanding of what to do with their money, not just go out and say hey I want these Jordans or hey I want this. No, put that money to the side for a rainy day or for a brighter future," Fletcher said. "They understand that now, because I'm showing them myself how we got started, and what we're doing with our money, and how we are saving our money and doing things we want to do to make our lives better."
LaShauna and Fletcher believe the work they do is critical, especially as violence impacts families across Indianapolis.
"It's super important because what's going on in the streets today, all these killings and the madness going on and to be here at ML & Trip Center just to be a safe place for them, a house and a home for them. To let them know that we are here no matter what you're going through, we are here for you, we love you," Fletcher said.
Because of the impact violence is having on so many, LaShauna recently went through training to help the students deal with the trauma they've experienced. Most of the kids they serve are referred by local schools or the Department of Child Services.
"One of the things that I like to tell our youth is you can either let your trauma define you or your trauma make you be better. So they are working on their trauma narrative being a positive one instead of having a negative impact for them," she said.
Taysean's goal is to one day own his own business doing construction or yard work. The skills he's learning this summer will help prepare him for that path, but he also wants to give back to the place that's helped turn his life around.
"When I turn 21, I'm gonna come back and work with Fletch, because I'm a youth mentor now for the little ones. So that will help me a lot to get towards my goals. The way he's changed my life around, I want to do that for the little ones too," Taysean said.
"It's priceless, it's beyond priceless, because to know that I was impacting his life and know that he wants to be like me. Not having a father, but then having me as a father figure, no words, no money can allow me to speak on how I feel about that because it's all from God giving me a gift to be able to help him out," Fletcher said.
Every Tuesday through September 28, ML & Trip is giving away free produce to families of three or more on the northeast side. It's part of a partnership with Healthier America. To get a box of food register here.