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Program to steer youth in positive direction wraps

CINCINNATI (WKRC) -- Children lace up their shoes for the final tip-off of a program designed to keep them out of trouble.
"H3 Cincy Hoops Heart Hope" program wraps up Friday night with a championship tournament.  The program wasn't just about playing basketball and hanging out with friends.  The Cincinnati Police department brought in positive role models and mentors for the kids and taught the value of positive teamwork.

It's the championship tournament and the players have worked hard to get ready.  17-year-old Elijah Phillips is a student at Withrow and sees a change in his own behavior since he joined the league.

"Well I learned how to respect others and play as a team and keep a positive attitude.  My attitude got way better because before I used to have a messed up attitude," Phillips said.

Dwayne Phillips, Elijah's grandfather, said, "And him getting in this league I think was really good for him because it taught him a lot about respecting players and respecting each other."
The 10 week educational and athletic program is called H3 Cincy.  For weeks boys and girls ages 10 to 19 played together in teams and formed relationships with police and volunteers.

Coach Matt Wiedemer said, "I think there's a lot of giveback and a lot of sharing.  I think these kids are learning a lot of life skills and we're learning from them as much as they're learning from us."
Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell started the program this year.  He says during his time in Columbus a similar one was effective in cutting violent crime and building bridges.

For these kids the night isn't just about a ceremony and free gym shoes.  It's an opportunity that has given them skills to do well as adults.  Chief Blackwell says one of the keys to steering people away from violent crime is reaching them when they're young with positive activities like the basketball program.       
"Boys Hope Girls Hope of Greater Cincinnati" also helped sponsor the program.  The organization helps children with unstable home lives.

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