KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sometimes, heartache lends itself to heroism.
That's the case for the family of a murder victim from the metro – the sister of a man who was gunned down during the winter. Now, she’s working to keep tragedy from happening again.
MINDDRIVE is a place where positive energy is used to give young people a leg up. That's what initially drew LaRonica Birmingham to work there. This non-profit group offers student with a lack of resources a chance to learn job skills and potentially, the means to stay on the right side of the law.
“Never had anyone in my family die of homicide like that,” Birmingham said.
Birmingham says January 29th was the worst day of her life. That's when police found her brother, Charlie Bolton, 39, shot to death inside a south Kansas City motel.
“It's another cold case, I guess they call it?” Birmingham told FOX 4 News.
Police haven't made any arrests in the case, although, Birmingham believes teenagers are to blame for the murder.
“To me, it's a matter of what I'm going to do about it now,” Birmingham said with determination.
That's why she's working for MINDDRIVE. Every semester, 75 teenagers from local high schools come to the group’s studio on Holmes Road near Hospital Hill. Professional mentors teach them auto repair, graphic design and other career-based tracts.
“The best thing to do is to reach out to the youth. MINDDRIVE knows the importance of our youth, and encouraging them, not only with words, but with actions,” Birmingham said.
Eighty percent of students enrolled in the program are eligible for free or reduced lunches at their high schools.
Birmingham's assignment is on the front lines. She visits local high schools and interviews potential students for MINDDRIVE's instruction, which usually happens on Saturday mornings.
“What we do best is youth development,” Matt Ziegenhorn, MINDDRIVE’s marketing director, told FOX 4 News. “What we're most proud of is when that student goes on through graduation.”
Ziegenhorn shared success stories, detailing how the program’s leadership has guided students toward career paths, many of whom might otherwise run afoul of the law.
“We couldn't do that without that kind of connection. As a society, we need to mimic this,” Ziegenhorn said.
Birmingham says Bolton leaves two children of his own behind, both of whom are high school aged. She's hopeful to see them both enrolled in this program soon as well. She says her brother would be proud of MINDDRIVE’s efforts to keep teenagers walking the straight and narrow.