INDIANAPOLIS — Patrice Donaldson enrolled her son, Cortell, 16, in B4U Fall’s summer program last year, “Just to keep him busy, keep him out of trouble and give him more opportunities,” Donaldson said.
Meisha Wilde, Executive Director of B4U Fall, explained that is exactly goal.
"Catching our youth before they fall into deeper justice issues or deeper issues of violence and just giving them love and support,” Wilde said.
Since the start of the year, six people under the age of 17 have died due to gun violence. Wide said that’s the age range her group is targeting, 14 to 18 years old.
Wilde said when she hears about young people involved in shootings and other crimes it reminds her why the work B4U Fall is doing is so important.
During the four week summer program, teens spend their days doing volunteer work, learning conflict resolution, and participating in a social innovation program where they learn skills that can translate into future careers.
Last summer, the young men learned about graphic design. This summer, B4U Fall is partnering with an organization that will teach the boys about film production.
“That has been really successful in preparing our young boys for jobs, different educational opportunities and even introduction to a different career,” Wilde said.
She also has seen major changes in the young men from the day they start the program to the day they complete it.
“When they first came to us they wanted to fight or they had other ways they wanted to resolve their issues but by the summer they bonded pretty much like brothers. It’s a way for us to actually give them a different way to handle problems,” Wilde explained.
For mothers like Donaldson, enrolling her son in the summer program is a way to ensure he’s doing something positive with his time and she doesn’t have to worry about him getting involved in other activities.
“Just getting in gang violence, streets, drugs those types of things. But this program was a success for us,” Donaldson said.
So successful that Cortell is participating again this summer.
This year, B4U Fall is opening its summer program opportunities to both young men and young women. To learn more about how to enroll, click here.
The program starts on June 15.