Volunteers needed for new summer program aiming to keep Charlotte teens safe

Charlotte teens will have a new weekend hangout spot this summer: the McCrorey, Stratford Richardson and Simmons YMCAs. At least, that’s what their parents hope.

The Summer of Opportunity program aims to give young people safe recreation options and perhaps even reduce summer crime by giving youths resources and mentors, as well as activities and games.

Organizers also want to build trust between teens and police. “We are always looking for agencies and organizations that provide some safe alternatives for our youth, especially in the summertime,” said Major Diego Anselmo of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The program is open to ages 13-18 and offers free access to these YMCAs on Friday and Saturday nights from 8 to 11. It runs from June 23 to Aug. 5.

Plans for this initiative have been in the works since early 2017 as part of a solution to discrepancies in economic mobility and racial tension in the Charlotte area. The main participants are CMPD, the YMCA, City Council and other partners, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which will provide a free meal to participants.

“We are going to have officers assigned to the locations, not only to provide safety and security, needless to say, but the idea is to also bring programs in,” Anselmo said. CMPD plans on incorporating existing outreach programs to bring resources directly to participants.

The program will cost $100,000, with the city of Charlotte and the YMCA splitting the cost.

Early intervention in the lives of teens is an important aspect of the program, said Todd Tibbits, the CEO of YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

“We know that teens are in a critical stage in life where they are deciding what they want to be and what they might become,” Tibbits said.

The program is modeled after similar efforts at YMCAs in Boston and Los Angeles called “Get Summer.”

The program needs 350 adult volunteers to serve as mentors for teens. Anyone interested in volunteering can fill out the form found here: https://www.ymcacharlotte.org/community/summer-of-opportunity/do-more-be-more.aspx.

Other partners include Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Charlotte, Communities In Schools, Carolinas HealthCare System and Project 658, a ministry for at-risk families.

Jamie Gwaltney: 704-358-5612, jgwaltney@charlotteobserver.com