The program teaches young people life skills and protects them from danger.
3 mins read

The program teaches young people life skills and protects them from danger.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The city of Columbus is partnering with community organizations to create programs for youth that will teach them skills while keeping them safe.

This summer, Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children (MOMCC) launched its Trendy Trade Youth Summer Program.

Trendy Trades is in its pilot year, but participants aged 11 have the chance to choose from seven trades. These workshops are designed to teach them practical skills.

“I chose American Sign Language because not enough people know ASL,” said high school student Daniela Delapaz. “I didn’t know about ASL.”

Wednesday was only the second day of ASL instruction, but the students were pushed to their limits. They were tested on subjects such as colors, numbers, and family members.

“I think the coolest thing right now is doing my name in sign language,” said high school student Sincere Wright. “That way I can meet other people, and my mom and dad are trying to learn, too.”

Both Wright and Delapaz said they have never been directly affected by violence, but they have seen the pain it can cause. The worst part is learning that a child their age has lost their life.

“I think it’s wrong because you’re very young and you have so much life to offer and it’s been taken away from you,” Delapaz said.

“This just has to end,” Wright said.

According to Columbus Police Department data, 18 of the 55 homicides this year involved people aged 21 or younger; 22 suspects were that age.

MOMCC founder Malissa Thomas-St. Clair said looking at that number, they knew they needed to focus on the city’s youth, with targeted outreach for violence prevention and intervention.

“We want this program (Trendy Trades), these youth, to be a seed, and when they go back to school, hopefully they’ll be sitting at their cafeteria tables or in their classrooms and voicing the need for behavior change in our youth,” Thomas-St. Clair said.

The organization received $125,000 from the city to create programs like Trendy Trades. Participants in the program had the opportunity to choose from seven trades, such as ASL and construction.

“Young people sometimes feel like the next step after high school is college, and we want to empower them to say that sometimes that’s not your path, and instead of going down a path that might not work out and not having a plan B, we want to support a plan B,” Thomas-St. Clair said.

She said the program is part of the organization’s Operation Under Triple Digits initiative. Columbus hasn’t had fewer than 100 homicides since 2016. That initiative uses a data-driven approach. In 2021, the city had well over 100 homicides at that point in the year.

Thomas-St. Clair believes it is the community saying “enough.”

Trendy Trades is a five-week summer program. We hope to continue it in the fall, Thomas-St. Clair said.