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"They care about us:" Anti-violence project helps children make choices

"They care about us"
"They care about us"
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LOWER PRICE HILL, Ohio (WKRC) - Planting seeds, that's what eight agencies in Lower Price Hill have 10 months to do. Seeds that change hearts minds and reduce crime.

The focus is on everything from healthy activities for children to job training for their parents.

It's already having an impact on the community.

Children at Oyler School in Lower Price Hill are very familiar with Neighborhood Officer Anthony Johnson. He's been called for fights, to the park for an overdose and patrols the area, but this is a different assignment.

"If you're out in public smoking marijuana it's not that you're bad, it's you already have disrespect for yourself you already know you’re going to get caught,” said Officer Johnson.

Officer Johnson was at Oyler School in Lower Price Hill where he hangs out with 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

They talk about self-respect, caring about community and crime, such as the run Officer Johnson made to a home with a pet emu.

"It's a real life emu walks like a dog has a license, everything,” said Officer Johnson.

This is part of the crime reduction plan. It is changing how these teens see police and themselves.

"Now, when I come in, I’m not that kid that always is rude or something now I know I need to be police I want to make him proud,” said Isabella Bellomo, a student at Oyler School.

Raeonna Thompson said Officer Johnson could have arrested her for fighting one day, instead he taught her how to redirect her anger.

"I want to go into marines then be a police officer after I come home,” said Thompson, adding that if she hadn't met Officer Johnson “I'd probably still be fighting.”

"The first thing that surprised me is how separated the kids were from us, and how tickled they are to see we're just as human as they are,” said Officer Johnson.

After school, some Oyler students come to the family center for the Santa Maria's youth programs.

The city grant allows for more activates, such as dancing, and longer hours.

Children can get help with homework, do crafts and take guitar lessons.

"It's not just the activities, it's whose involved in those activities everyone has positive mentors and role models the kids realize that we care about them,” said Jim Holstrom of the Santa Maria Community Center.

"It's a place where grownups show us love compassion and really care about us,” said 12-year-old Rayvon Griffith.

12-year-old Rayvon Griffith is very good at basketball, but he also enjoys study groups and yoga classes at nearby “Community Matters,” one of the agencies in on the project.

"I enjoy coming to the gym, doing homework seeing the staff, every day they encourage us to do better and follow our dreams,” said Rayvon.

The collaborative isn't just about the kids, counsellors meet with families to see if they need help.

"We have jobs, training, whatever they need, we're going to try to link the family with resources to meet those needs,” said Holstrom.

The grant is good until August 31st.

That means 10 months of healthy activities for Lower Price Hill children and much more, but after that, then what?

"We're hopeful we have results so the city sees on the right track so we can continue these,” said Holstrom.

If crime numbers count, the project is on the right track.

Crime is down in Lower Price Hill. Is it because of Officer Johnson? Is it the healthy off-the-street activities? Is it job training that allows for dreams? Or is it all of the above?

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Agencies involved in the Off-the-Streets program will give a presentation at city hall on August 30th, in hopes of getting the grant renewed.

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