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Why Yahkee Johnson wants you to sign your kids up for summer programs: '[They] mean everything'

Posted at 9:56 PM, May 15, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- With summer fast approaching the City of Richmond wanted families to know about the wide range of programs they can take part in this summer.

Yahkee Johnson is among the Parks and Rec staff helping kids be their best and have fun during some of the programs.

"I just wanted to be a blessing to someone else, because, I knew my situation as a kid growing up," Johnson, with the Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation, said.

The former football standout grew up in South Richmond in a single-parent household. He did not always have something to do in the summer. But helping fill those gaps were city programs like the ones he now runs.

"It means the world to me, honestly, these programs mean everything," he said.

He said the program not only got him ready for football, but for life.

"Holding myself accountable, being on time, all of the things that made me the person that I am to this day," he said.

Richmond City Council President Mike Jones shared Johnson's story while highlighting how city leaders planned to keep kids engaged and safe this summer.

"The best thing to do to keep guns out of kids' hands, put a ball, put a pen in, put a camera in," Jones said.

Late Night Gym is one new program.

Gyms at Fairfield Elementary and George Wythe High School will stay open Friday and Saturday nights to people ages 15 to 20. Security will be provided by Richmond Police who added they're restarting a partnership with Virginia State Police called Operation Safe Summer.

"Partnering with them and some of our federal some of the other federal agencies to try to combat gun violence," Interim Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards said.

Other free and paid programs include summer meals and swim lessons -- noting several pools will open on Memorial Day and are already fully staffed for lifeguards.

"This goes to the funding of getting our starting salary at $17," Chris Frelke, Parks and Recreation Director, said. "Now going up to 18 $in July for us to be able to recruit and be able to do that to be staffed."

As summer approaches, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has encouraged parents to sign their kids up for the camps and stay curious about what they're doing.

"Where your kids are and who they're hanging out with," he said.

While Johnson said he was excited about what's to come this year and hopes to see lots of kids out there.

"These programs can be definitely beneficial to the kids. So if you're thinking about it, please do it," he said.

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