Advocacy groups meet to keep youth out of trouble

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay joined advocacy groups Wednesday for a discussion on how to keep Wichita youth off the streets and out of trouble this summer. This is the second task force meeting on the topic.

Beni Santibenez of Hope For The Hood said his organization is all about sharing opportunities.

“There’s a lot more things to do these days then get doped up and gang bang and destroy each other,” said Santibenez. “And the more we talk about it, the more these kids will start to wake up.”

Some of the advocacy groups believe some of these opportunities can help break the cycle of gang violence for local kids.

“Everybody’s keeping their mouth closed because there’s a stigma that the police are the bad guys,” said Angel Martinez of Hope For The Hood. “They say, don’t talk to the police or you’re a snitch; that’s a stigma. When in reality, who do we call when we need somebody to come help us? We call the police.”

Local advocates, law enforcement and individuals who meet with kids everyday say they also want to get the perspective of the youth.

“These students in our program go through a lot but if they have adults and community that rallies around them, then they will step up to the expectations that we’ve set,” said Rise Up For Youth’s, Lynn Gilkey.

The goal is to make known the resources available, especially during the summer months. Some of these resources include the YMCA’s late night basketball games, which take place every Saturday night at the south-side YMCA.

“It really is a remarkable experience,” explained YMCA director, Terrell Benton. “Over 500 kids showed up and to be able to have an opportunity to get those kids off the streets and to give them the chance to spend some time with some people they wouldn’t ordinarily get to spend some time with, is great.”

Another resource is the Boys and Girls Club.

“We have a lot of things happening for the youth over the summer,” said the club’s unit director, Vanessa Riles. “There’s kids lit’, which is a literacy program that the kids get to participate in. We also have science and technology, triple play and music and dance. Off site we are partnered with WSU to utilize their pools and we take kids on local field trips throughout the summer.”

Those at the meeting Wednesday say they want to see the youth come to future meetings to give their input on what they want to see in their own communities.

“There is a lot of people interested in the same thing in this room and we want to just do some collaborations so we can do the best thing that needs to be done for the children in our community,” said the of the NAACP President. Larry Burks.

Those involved say they can’t do any good if people just talk about the plans, they want to see action come from these meeting and many that were in attendance say, that is the foundation of the conversation. Most there say that to get kids involved they need to find incentives to get them involved with their task force as well as find a comfortable place for them to meet, where they will feel like they can freely share their feelings.