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Community organizations work to keep at-risk youth out of prison and off the streets

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Police and the community have been fighting the uphill battle to try to keep at-risk youth out of prison and off the streets.

Henry Wash, the Executive Director of High Aspirations, a mentoring group that helps African American young men ages eight to 18, says positive role models, encouragement and love can make the difference between a young person making good decisions and bad ones.

“We are not giving them enough time and attention that spells love in their lives, someone who took the time out to go and have an ice cream or go eat pizza or do something we know they would like to do,” said Wash.

Wash says his group helps young men reach for higher aspirations through its mentor program, community service and sometimes a simple game of chess.

“Chess teaches critical thinking skills and it also teaches you about, like number one is respect the other player,” said Wash.

Wash says having a father figure in the home is important for young people to succeed, but Alvin Brooks with the AdHoc Group Against Crime says he knows a lot of single women who have raised educated law abiding sons.

He says poverty and education also play a role in the demise of young African American men.

“When you have three generations in one household and nobody is 30 you've got a problem. When you have a 28-year-old grandmother and a 13 or 14-year-old mother and then an eight to six-month-old baby, nobody’s behind is dry from diaper rash,” said Brooks.

Brooks says education is a key factor to success and it's something wash says is at the core of his mentoring program.

Brooks says at-risk youth is not just a black issue, but an American issue and we all have a vested interest to do something about it.

Statistics show that poverty, educational achievement and crime have all been linked to fatherless homes.

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