Richmond leaders roll out summer youth programming to curb violence

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and others touted more than $560,000 for summer camps and other ways to keep area youth busy.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 3:31 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Yahkee Johnson is giving back by working at Rrichmond’s Southside Community Center.

“These programs mean everything,” said Johnson, a Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation employee.

A two-year employee there, he knows the value and importance of helping kids and teens. It’s a position he found himself in when he was younger.

“Just holding myself accountable. Being on time. All those things that made me the person that I am to this day,” said Johnson.

Those summertime programs were on full display during a news conference Monday afternoon on the city’s southside.

“We know we need to offer more in certain places in the city,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

Stoney and others touted more than $560,000 for summer camps and other ways to keep area youth busy.

“If we can do that, we think we could at least reduce the amount of gun violence we’re seeing in those communities but also at the end of the day, give kids more opportunities to have fun,” said Stoney.

“Late Night Gym” will give 15 to 20-year-olds something to do on Fridays and Saturdays at George Wythe High School and the Gill Center at Fairfield Elementary, focusing on curbing violence in the city’s southside and east end.

“I think providing security for that is going to give a safe place for our youth to go to in a city at night so that they can do something positive,” said Acting Chief Rick Edwards of the Richmond Police Department.

The city’s acting chief also announced Operation Safe Summer. It’s a federal and state partnership to combat gun violence starting June 10.

“The best thing to do to keep guns out of kid’s hands, put a ball in it, put a pen in it, put a camera in it,” said Mike Jones, Richmond City Councilor.

That “Late Night Gym” will be available starting June 9 and will run through Aug. 19.