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Free the Voice program works to foster leadership in Indianapolis boys

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The future is in the hands of our youth. But too often, they don’t have much voice, particularly when it come to discussions aimed at curbing violence and a say on what’s needed in education.

A new program designed to develop leadership and positive behaviors in young men has started in Indianapolis. And people who participate may be rewarded in a very special way.

Some people use the term “at-risk youth” but nonprofit Voices Corp. prefers the term “at-promise youth.” So often the versions of themselves that young people see on TV do not paint them in the best light. This is an attempt to change that narrative and set them up for success.

“We need to go to them; we need to start shifting some of the focus off adults in the spaces and centering youth voices to be able to come up with some of the solutions for our cities,” said Kia Wright, executive director of Voices Corp.

Voices Corp is a nonprofit with a specific focus on youth, particularly those who may not have come from the most privileged of backgrounds or those who may have found themselves in trouble with the law.

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“The people around me — they’ve taught me to see the better in me basically. And I feel like I’ve grown and I haven’t gotten into trouble ever since,” said participant Lisandro Salas.

“There’s people here that care for me, especially if you need someone to talk to you. When you come here, there’s a lot of people that can do that,” said participant Dallas Morris.

That work is now being expanded even more with the Free the Voice program.

“I think we can turn on the news and social media platforms and see why it’s important to focus our energy on them. They are dying at higher rates, the literacy gaps in education are in higher rates, unemployment gaps are at higher rates,” Wright said.

The six-week program is designed to develop, leadership, community engagement and positive behaviors. It’s being done in partnership with Christamore House with a specific focus on boys ages 13-18.

“The bedrock of what we do at the Christamore House is really focus on youth services, so this partnership with Free the Voice really is in alignment with what we do every single day,” said Mia Black.

Organizers said some of the behavior problems stem from limited job access. Thanks to grants, the boys who complete the program will earn $500 cash.

They organization hopes to get 15-20 boys in the program.

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