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Hamilton program seeks to curb teenage gun violence

Posted at 11:04 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 06:58:07-04

HAMILTON, Ohio — Hamilton's Hype program seeks to help at-risk teens five days a week through mentoring, job and skills training and conflict-resolution training.

Among the teachers is pastor Shaq Mathews, who started Hamilton Young People Empowered six years ago.

"I definitely know that kids lives have changed because of this program," said Mathews. "As it relates to gun violence, that rings dear to my heart."

Mathews lost her brother, Calvin Simmons Jr., to gun violence in 2016 and since then she's made it part of her life's work to end gun violence.

"Surround them with mentors," she said. "Positive people they see every day in their community."

The program began with positive speakers and turned into mentorship programs, with events like Hype boxing, books and barbershop, art therapy and open gym nights on Fridays, where more than 300 teens would attend.

"That let me know, and our team know, that kids want something positive to do," said Mathews. "We just have to continue to create those environments for them to be able to do that."

A participant in the program, 14-year-old Davan, said he finds it hard seeing news of people his age involved in gun violence.

"It's overwhelming to see that kids my age can get shot just like that," he said.

For him, mentorship has had a strong impact toward changing his mindset about violence involving young people.

"Show them that violence isn't always the way," he said. "Sometimes I used to get violent on people. But now I just look at it a certain way and think, 'It's not worth it. It's just not.'"

The non-profit holds various fundraisers throughout the year to ensure that kids who want to participate in the program can, with as few barriers as possible.

"There's a lot of great programs like myself that are out here in the trenches and have a pulse of what's going on in the neighborhood and in the community," said Mathews.

She added that being able to wrap arms around children involved in violence while showing them another way can help set kids on a different path.