He's 6’4, 290 pounds and a former Kentucky State offensive tackle. The kids love him.
Tavares Dishmon - TD for short - is part of the APPS Staff at Glenwood Rec Center on the Hilltop.
For TD it's all about engagement.
“Most adults make a mistake in not giving kids a voice. Kids have a voice too and they need someone to hear them out,” says Dishmon.
APPS stands for: Applications for Pride, Purpose & Success.
Organizers figure if they can get teens into a positive, nurturing environment, they can keep them away from drugs, gangs, gunplay, and life-threatening situations out on the street.
Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health Board member Kevin Dixon says it’s a tough task getting through to teens. “It takes time to build trust and once you've built trust, then you can start working with them.”
City officials created the program after a spike in teen homicides in the summer of 2010. They saw rec centers as a place to create no-violence zones where kids could be safe.
"I have some kids come in and say if you weren't open, I might be tempted to do this drive by or some kind of violent crime,” says Dixon.
And the program isn’t shy about keeping late hours. It’s open Thursdays through Saturdays nights until 11:30 p.m.
Dixon says the program keeps the hours because those are the main times violence in the community picks up.
Keeping the teens in a healthy mental state is another goal. Youngsters experiencing emotional trauma can get help from professional counselors.
Chip Livesay of Columbus Public Health says one of the bigger issues the program treats is grief. “They are grieving loss. Parents may be in jail. They’ve seen friends die.”
“My friend's mom just passed away and we're going through a lot of stuff right now. And I'm trying to help him not breakdown,” says program member Robert Williams.
Through mentoring, tutoring, and just being a sounding board for teens trying to avoid the lure of the streets, the staff of the APPS program says they're making a difference.
For Tavares Dishmon, seeing kids get off the streets and have an opportunity to save their lives is the “best feeling in the world.” “I love it.”
Find out if the APPS program is at a recreation center near you: http://www.columbus.gov/Templates/Detail.aspx?id=56379