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The Power Moves-KC Shark Tank contest is the first of three health department initiatives to help Kansas City youth reduce stress and find healthy ways to use their time and energy.
"Too many of our young people are ending up under the sheets at homicide scenes," said Rashid Junaid, Aim4Peace program director. "We must be willing to experiment to save lives. We are trying different ways to engage with our young people to keep them off the streets and away from violence."
Participants in the 8th through 12th grades were required to attend a minimum of four free business development sessions presented by Black Excellence. The community of Black professionals helped the kids develop a brand and marketing strategy for their product or service and then coached them to make their final sales pitch.
One talented teenager brought her paintings and developed a business plan for an art and greeting card business. Another is making and selling candles, and another wants to help teenagers during a difficult time by providing a box of personal hygiene products with a personal note inside.
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The first-place winner is starting a skateboarding business.
"We will provide you safety equipment," said Chris Ortiz-Cruz, Power Moves-KC Shark Tank winner during his final pitch to the judges. "This will allow people to be more confident, in coming to us, be more open to try new things."
Ortiz-Cruz told the judges that he wants to eventually develop an app so his clients can track their progress learning new skateboarding skills.
Another upcoming opportunity initiated by the health department is called 'Box Out.' Teenagers are taught boxing skills as a therapeutic way to reduce stress, conflict and burnout.
"Through this program, boxing is used as an avenue to teach kids lifelong fitness practices, respect for self and others, and how to be a positive contributor to society and feel validated while doing it," said Kyle Hollins, chief executive officer of Lyrik's Institution, with whom Aim4Peace is partnering to bring these programs to Kansas City youth.
Box Out sessions are open every Wednesday in June from 5:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.
All activities take place at 3115 Linwood, which is Jamison Memorial Temple, another Aim4Peace partner focused on reducing violence and stress among young people.
In addition to hosting Power Moves-KC Shark Tank and Box Out, spiritual leaders at Jamison partnered with the Aim4Peace team to open what they call the "Peace Center."
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"It will be open 24/7 and is designed to be a safe place where kids can decompress and talk to someone with experience in trauma," said Kevin Humphries, policy and prevention manager at the health department. "Our kids need a place where's there's no chaos, where they can calm down and talk through the rage or fear they feel. A safe space like that can keep them from lashing out with violence against themselves or others."
The Peace Center's location on Linwood makes it especially helpful to children who attend Central Middle and Central High schools. The center will provide shelter, comfort and conversation, resource referrals and short-term counseling services.
If a young person in crisis visits the center in the middle of the night, someone at the Peace Center will contact the Aim4Peace outreach team to assist them.
Aim4Peace responders are already trained and on-call 24/7 to respond when social workers from Research Medical Center and University Health (formerly Truman Medical Center) call them. They respond at all hours to mediate when a victim of violence is admitted to the hospital, and they or their family or friends are focused on retaliation.
To pay for these programs, Aim4Peace applied for and received a $100,000 grant from Everytown Community Safety Fund, which funds community-based strategies to reduce violence.
Anyone interested in participating in the programs should call 816-419-6255.
Media should contact Michelle Pekarsky, health department public information officer at 816-719-3610.
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