To reduce crime, our city’s former Department of Public Safety Director and eventually Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Troy Riggs spearheaded an effort that identified six strategic focus areas in 2014. With 30% of homicides and 30% of non-fatal shootings occurring in these communities that span only 8 square miles and account for just 4.7% of the population, Chief Riggs and his team pointed to hunger, school expulsion rates, unemployment, mental and emotional health, re-entry after incarceration, and other significant challenges faced by residents as root causes and believed failure to eradicate these systemic issues would lead to crime not only climbing in these communities but also spreading across our city.
As many of our supporters and partners know, proven repeatedly, close proximity and persistent exposure to multidimensional challenges of poverty and violence, concentrated systemic inequities, and other longstanding struggles that people marginalized by society encounter in daily life create multiple layers of adversity that interfere, detour, and block our city’s youth from fulfilling aspirations and achieving success. Hand in hand with these complex, interconnected adversities comes the lack of access to resources and opportunities crucial to overcome these barriers, fueling the cycle that entraps youth in generational poverty, intensifying susceptibility to criminal activity, and jeopardizing their futures.
In an interview with NUVO, Chief Riggs pinpointed the solution – targeting youth with long-term collaborative efforts that bring stability and expand opportunity. “How do we stop crime long-term? It’s by meeting the needs of young people today. And young people today, in these areas that we talk about, face a far more difficult challenge to be successful,” he said. “We need to start thinking of our city as a family … and when one part of your family is hurting you go and you help. It’s going to take all of us doing our part. But we have to work together.” [02.03.2016]
At Elevate Indianapolis, we believe wholeheartedly that no one gets there alone. However, for most enveloped by these unjust circumstances, no one is there to journey alongside them, and with almost 7 in 10 of Indianapolis Public Schools students living in poverty [SAVI, 2021], its life-threatening legacy passed from parent to child endangers our current generation. For Indianapolis to become a 21st-century model city, we need to continue to cultivate the next generation of diverse urban leaders – our current high school students, all with unlimited assets and potential – by expanding access, advancing equity, and fostering well-being. If we do not do this, not only will these students suffer the consequences for a lifetime, but the wasted possibilities and unfulfilled ambitions will damage their families, their neighborhoods, and our city.
For that reason, each new Elevate Indianapolis staff member kicks off orientation with Aaron Story, our President and CEO, standing at the corner of 10th and Rural, an intersection that sits in the heart of one of these neighborhoods named a key focus area. Here, they discuss the chronic struggles that confront our students, their families, and their neighbors moment by moment and our desire to make a difference, to bring wholeness and change alongside them in the communities they call home. All our efforts – life-on-life mentoring, leadership development, character building, and more – must pass the litmus test … does this contribute directly to lasting neighborhood transformation? Aaron stresses in this exchange, “If our program, and your individual role within it, isn’t building thriving families, neighborhood blocks, and whole communities, we are missing the mark.”
With all of this in mind, at the start of the 2023-2024 program year, our mission – building long-term, life-changing relationships with Indianapolis urban youth, equipping them to thrive and contribute to their community – continues to energize and direct our efforts while our theme – Elevate Their Community, Elevate Our City! – sharpens our focus. Alongside students, we counter disadvantages, close gaps, and remove obstructions that heighten their vulnerability to the harmful consequences of starting life with significant barriers and limited opportunities to fulfill dreams, achieve economic mobility, and develop into leaders.
Preparing for college and career, mentoring 24/7/365, equipping as servant-leaders, growing through sports and adventure, all that we do with students fortifies holistic well-being, shifts life trajectories away from impoverished survival and toward lifelong fulfillment, ultimately enhancing their capacity to thrive and succeed in life and to serve as collaborative change agents who contribute to their communities and strengthen our city.