INDIANAPOLIS — One of the organizers behind Ceasefire Indy is launching a new summer program to help keep kids off the street and out of trouble. It’s called “The Village Project”, and founders say the goal is to expose young kids to communities outside of their own while teaching them important life skills.
“Sometimes – living in our community – we only around certain people all the time and that kind of keeps us in a box,” said Ron Gee, founder of The Village Project.
“The Village Project is something to keep young kids off the streets,” said J.P. Mcmillian, a 12-year-old enrolled in the program. “A lot of kids out here in the street selling drugs… actually kids younger than me in the streets right now.”
The youth summer program officially launched three weeks ago and already 13 kids are enrolled. Gee said more than two dozen are on a waitlist.
Through The Village Project, kids have the opportunity to go to concerts, watch races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and even visit black-owned art galleries. They also get hands-on experience working real jobs.
“They working at different local businesses around Indianapolis and we’re calling out for more businesses to get involved to be able to employ these kids throughout the summer,” said Gee. “And these is just local businesses throughout our community.”
Most days, you can find 12-year-old Mcmillian filling in as “manager” of 1313 Eatery on North Sherman Drive. He said, thanks to the program, he has been able to learn both customer service and management skills. With the stipends he earns, he said he is also able to learn the value of having a job and saving up.
“Most of us is not in the streets because we’re in this program right now,” said Mcmillian.
Gee said the program teaches important life skills like good decision making, accountability, and money management.
“Just regular normal people can make an impact if we work together,” said Tijideen Rowley with Community Church Indy.
Rowley said the church’s head pastor was looking to give back to the youth in the community, so he decided to offer up the church as a space for The Village Project to call home.
“This summer we’re going to do a [theater] production. We want to bring the young people in,” said Rowley. “But we want to talk with them and find out issues that they’re facing and make a production around it.”
Rowley, who comes from a theater background, said exposing our youth to a potential career path at a young age can be a “game changer” for their future.
“I think this is something that’s needed not just here in this city, but around the world,” said Rowley.
Gee said he is looking for more mentors to join his mission. He said he is also looking for more businesses to open their doors, and a van to be able to transport those in the program more efficiently.
Those interested in joining The Village Project, or learn more about the program, can contact Gee on social media.