City of Toledo to invest in youth programs this summer

Sarah Elms, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
·3 min read

May 4—Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz wants to spend $1.4 million of the city's American Rescue Plan allocation to bolster summer programs for youth, including sports, recreation, arts and science activities, and a youth jobs program.

It's the type of positive programming city council members and community leaders alike have emphasized needs more support, particularly after a year of isolation coupled with an increase in gun violence.

The mayor, city council members, and program leaders gathered at Smith Park's basketball courts Tuesday to announce the investment.

"We know how crucially important having positive activities is. This year at this time, it's doubly important, given that we're just starting to emerge from COVID ... and also because Toledo, like many other cities, is experiencing violence in a way that we can't tolerate," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. "One of the solutions, at least one, is to make sure that our kids have positive options all the time, but especially during the summer."

Toledo is set to receive nearly $189 million in two installments from the federal government. Half will be distributed this month, and the other half will come next year. The $1.4 million now to be spent will be drawn from the city's general fund, with the administration planning to reimburse from the federal allocation once it is deposited.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said his team reached out to existing youth programs across the city to invest in what is already working.

They intend to spend about $662,000 on youth programs that range from basketball and boxing to coding and podcasting, poetry and music, and golf and tennis. Almost all are free for participants, though some do have a small fee, the mayor said.

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Another $691,000 will go toward workforce development and mentoring, as well as marketing, advertising, and transportation to increase participation in the programs.

The workforce development and mentoring portion is a partnership between the city, Toledo Public Schools, and Washington Local Schools that will allow students to participate in tutoring, job-readiness training, and financial literacy while working paid jobs in and around their schools.

Councilman Tiffany Preston Whitman said as a parent, she often scrambles this time of year to find summer activities for her children. She said she looks for things that will keep them busy and be fun, but summer programs are more than that, too.

"We know that when young people have these types of opportunities, they're more likely to connect with an adult mentor, they're more likely to connect with educational opportunities to prepare for the next school year, they're also more likely to be able to have that opportunity just to breath and develop their skills, gifts, and their talent," she said.

Councilman Vanice Williams encouraged young people to participate in the many activities and to reach out to her if they need help getting connected or finding something they're interested in.

"There is something for you to do other than things that would not benefit you," she said.

Councilman Cerssandra McPherson said she is "elated" about the program because it puts kids first.

"We have to save our young people. They're our future. When we put money into them, we're putting money into us. Because we're preparing them to stand here some day," she said.

The mayor said his team is working to roll out a marketing plan to ensure parents, grandparents, and other guardians learn about the programs soon to be available for youth and how to access them.

"Anyone who wants to bounce a ball or learn a skill or earn some money cleaning up around a school, anyone who wants to do these things, you will have the opportunity now because of a historic $1.4 million spending plan," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

Toledo City Council will hold a virtual committee meeting about the administration's proposal Thursday at 5 p.m., with the intent to vote on the spending authorization next Tuesday so programs can begin. Both meetings can be accessed at toledo.legistar.com.