Hamilton mentoring, summer enrichment program enters fifth year

Pastor Shaquila Mathews’ youth mentoring and summer enrichment programs are entering their fifth year and will be a bit different than prior years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pastor Shaq Job Mentoring Youth program, which provides students paid summer jobs, usually starts in June, but this year will begin July 10, “so we’ll be able to have all the information that we need by that time” about precautions that should be taken because of the illness, she said. The program will go for five weeks instead of the usual eight.

Usually, the program admits 40-50 students from ages 13-18, but this summer it will have about 30. There will also be more activities and options, including events at area parks and the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum.

The program every summer provides the kids with gloves and uniforms, but this year’s equipment will also include a journal, face mask and hand sanitizer.

Mathews, who leads Truth and Life Community Church in downtown Hamilton, founded HYPE — Hamilton Young People Empowered — the umbrella organization for the various activities. The church’s Facebook page is Truth and Life.

Here are some of the programs that are offered:

  • HYPE Boxing, which is available to children from ages 7 to 17, will start in late July. That program is in its second year, with classes during the day or evenings, lasting for eight weeks. This activity happens on Wednesdays.
  • Books and Barbershop, which will begin the third week of July, is open to kids of all ages, and provides free haircuts, books and snacks on Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m. Rather than the usual hands-on arts-and-crafts activities, this year the arts-and-crafts will be provided as take-home kits. For this program, no registration is required.

“Our HYPE Open Gym, we usually have numbers into the 300s,” she said. “For that program, we’re still on the drawing board and planning for that, and what that program could or would look like under these new circumstances. That may be a program we have to pause for now, or look at how do we work with the things that are in place” in Ohio, with rules for public gatherings, “to see how we can comply,” Mathews said. That program usually starts in August and runs through the fall on Friday evenings.

The program is looking for people interested in volunteering to help run the program, and sponsors willing to help financially or with providing food or other assistance.

“If someone finds it in their heart they want to give or be a part, we definitely can use the help,” she said.

“We are looking for kids,” Mathews said. “We’d like kids to apply who want to be part of the program.”

Those people and people interested in registering for the programs can contact Mathews at 513-899-6181, or email her at pastorshaq@gmail.com.

People who follow the Hamilton Young People Empowered page on Facebook can find information as it develops about the Books and Barbershop program and HYPE Boxing.

“In our fifth year, we want to say thank-you to the community that’s been supporting this program and see the value in it, and have invested their time, money and energy to enable this program to happen for kids in our community.”

“We have some that are attending Wright State,” she said. “We have some that have gone on to Tennessee State. We have some that are in Kentucky State. We have some that went on to trade school, that are (commercial) truck drivers, we have had some come back and be mentors and group leaders.”

“It’s been a blessing, and a lot of hard work,” she said. “There’s been some hard days, and moments when I didn’t know if we were going to be able to meet our budget to even be able to have a program, but then somebody would step up and make sure it happened.”

HYPE By the Numbers

Here are figures for how many children have been helped by Pastor Shaq’s various mentoring programs:

  • In the prior four years, "With the Pastor Shaq Job Mentoring Program, we've employed over 125 kids," said Pastor Shaquila Mathews, who also is a member of the city's school board.
  • The HYPE Open Gym program has served we've seen well over 2,000 kids.
  • In the first year, 40 kids attend our HYPE Boxing.
  • Books and Barbershop has given given well over 1,000 books to kids and given more than 140 free haircuts.

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