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Knoxville to provide summer opportunities for at-risk youth, support local organizations

This year, city leaders have been busy working on new initiatives to combat youth violence.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — More initiatives are rolling out to steer at-risk youth away from violent crime. 

The City of Knoxville is helping local non-profits and community organizations by giving them funds to expand summer programs or provide job opportunities. They are meant to help kids avoid violence during the summer months.

City officials said it will impact youth, the organizations and the community. 

Throughout the year, city leaders have been busy working on several other new initiatives to combat youth violence.

"We have a lot of families that are hurting and struggling, a lot of issues that need to be addressed," said LaKenya Middlebrook with the city. 

This new summer opportunity program comes is targeted towards 12-year-olds through 21-year-olds to keep them busy when not in school. 

"This is a great opportunity to connect young adults who are maybe not already connected to programming or are struggling to find employment opportunities," said Middlebrook. "We hope this is an important first step to keeping some of our young people connected that otherwise wouldn't be."

Organizations must first apply, they can do so here. Recipients will then receive between $3,000  and $20,000 if approved. The funds can be used to supplement the cost of programming or the cost of participating in various events.

Middlebrook said the money can also be used as a stipend to pay youth for their time, something the organizations may not have been able to offer otherwise. 

"We want to make sure we're surrounding them with community — that they know they're loved and supported and there are people they can go to," she said.

For Knoxville teen Nehemias Gil, having a job means having an opportunity to grow. 

"You don't know the more opportunities that can be created for you or the more opportunities that can come your way by just coming to work," he said. 

He's excited to see the city tackle this issue and provide much-needed support for its youth.

"I think it's a really good initiative. It gets you away from trying to get busy versus you having to get busy," said Gil. 

Middlebrook said it's a part of a long-term sustainability plan. 

City officials are urging the community to reach out to youth who need to be connected to these opportunities.

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