Former high-crime Indy neighborhood getting national attention after turnaround

(WISH Photo)
(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — At one point, the Laurelwood apartment complex was considered a dangerous, high crime neighborhood in Indianapolis.

But 10 years after partnering with the YMCA and the University of Indianapolis, the Laurelwood community is being lifted up as a national model for what it’s doing well.

“All the counselors are very fun and they’re very nice and kind,” said 11-year-old Noelle Barlow, who is attending a safe, free summer camp for kids in the complex.

“We play activities and have fun with the counselors and we make stuff,” said 7-year-old Jamese McKenzie.

Staff from the YMCA bring community into the neighborhood.

“So we’re here five days a week during the summer from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., just showing them that they can have a good life and a better life, if they just stay on the right track,” said Ashleigh Coster, director of programming for the Intercollegiate YMCA.

Ten years ago, Laurelwood, which is part of the Indianapolis Housing Authority, was a place where you couldn’t order pizza. Kids had nothing to do and, as a result, frequently got into trouble.

“If you have something for the kids to look forward to, that’s another way to capture the kids from going to the left, when they need to go to the right,” Sandra Bailey said.

Bailey was approached by the University of Indianapolis, which then partnered with the YMCA to give area young people something positive.

After 10 years and quite a turnaround in Laurelwood, the program in this neighborhood is now being piloted in three other communities.

In July, the national Department of Education is coming to Indianapolis to see how Laurelwood is achieving such success.

When asked what difference she’s seen in the kids in Laurelwood, Bailey answered: “The attitude. Kids, the way they really take it serious about what they need to do as far as learning, and I see a lot of smiles.”

The smiles are what motivate Coster too, “Just looking at their smiles and seeing their success stories. We’ve got so many kids that come from a hard background or they’re just struggling, and when they come here they can just be kids.”

“If I didn’t have the program, I would have been sad, mad and I would never know that I would be myself,” said 8-year-old Jada Barlow.

“Laurelwood feels so blessed and so honored to be able to have a program and something positive,” Bailey said. “Because a lot of time negative things go on in public housing, but today we’re talking about positive stuff and making it happen, and it is happening.”

For more information on the YMCA and it’s programming, click here: http://www.indymca.org/

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