Summer program provides jobs to youth

Clean for Green Save our Seed program employees several hundred youth from the Marion County area.
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City leaders believe providing jobs to give young people something constructive to do is one way too solve the crime crisis in Indianapolis.

The "Clean for Green Save our Seed (SOS)" program started last summer. For a morning of sweaty trash collecting, low-income teens in Marion County, get an ear full of discipline, mentoring and $25. That's real money for teens without jobs.

It may not sound like much, but city and program leaders say it goes a long way toward improving our community and keeping young people out of trouble.

"So that when you go for a job, you can say, 'Yeah, I worked the summer program and here's my reference," said IMPD Chief Rick Hite. "Here's someone who can say something good about my work ethic as I've learned I don't have to make a hustle to make a living for myself."

Mayor Greg Ballard said a job gives a person a sense of accomplishment and a way to support themselves.

"It can also deter a person from turning to a life of crime," he said.

DeCarla Mason stood between her two sons Friday.

"These boys haven't seen any handcuffs. Thank you Jesus," she said with a big smile.

Mason's boys, 18-year-old Carl and 20-year-old Christian, are among hundreds of inner-city young men and woman completing the summer job and mentoring program. She looked at her sons again and explained, "It is showing my boys how they could become men, how they could earn money by coming and giving back."

Looking over the several hundred teenagers the Reverend Wayne Moore Olivet, said "I believe this summer we have eliminated some crime. Give yourselves a hand."

They applauded and so did city officials, including the mayor and police chief.

"You are my heroes," Hite said, looking over the crowd. "You are the ones beating the odds."

Christian Mason has a daughter on the way.

"The little bit of money I was getting helped out quite much," he said.

His brother admits he had nothing better to do this summer.

"I don't think nothing positive," he admitted. "Probably nothing positive would have come out of it."

Last year, Clean For Green ran on just $30,000. This year, it took $90,000. Organizers say they need much more money next year, to help more teenagers.

About 250 teens were left out on a waiting list. City officials from the mayor on down are promising to find more funding.

"When I look out at a group like this, I have great hope for the city of Indianapolis," Mayor Ballard said.

The city's new public safety foundation donated $25,000 to the effort. It raised the money with its first annual "Your Life Matters" fun run in June. More fundraisers and contributions will be needed to expand the program.

A city beset with violence is seeing hope and optimism in teenagers eager to stay out of trouble and stay clean for a little green.