Baltimore, Md. (WMAR) - On the first day of the new year, we’ve already seen our first homicide.
An organization called KEYS is working to buck the trend and build up and guide the youth.
KEYS stands for Keep Encouraging Youth to Succeed.
KEYS is a community mental health service geared toward breaking down the walls that stand in young people’s way to success.
Mujahid Muhammad, the President of KEYS, said every kid in Baltimore has gone through some type of trauma, and they need positive role models who have experience in mental health fields.
"A lot of us believe that unfortunately because they're out here and they're not doing the right thing that they're not salvageable,” said Muhammad. “I beg to differ I cry to differ. I cry because all of these kids are willing to do what we all are doing every day, they just need a hand.”
The key to KEYS, finding people who have made it out of bad communities and bringing them back to build relationships with the communities they grew up in.
"That relationship leads to trust and with trust we can build skills and that's what we want,” said Muhammad. “We want to build long lasting skills so that when we get you to that place of putting you in employment, when we get you to that place of getting your first apartment or getting you out of some sort of trouble that you have the skills to able to do it,"
KEYS employee’s community based practitioners like Aisha Small, who grew up in the same neighborhoods and have felt the same pains.
"Once you see something traumatic you can't unsee you can't undo it you can't I feel it,” said Small. “But we teach different ways of how to cope with what you've seen or what you felt,"
9-year-old Jaidan Coppadge said his youth advocate helped to show him another way.
"I got into a fight at school because a student pulled my hair and I fought back,” said Coppadge. “The next time they pulled my hair I thought in my head what he taught me and I told the teacher,"
KEYS works with Baltimore City and county schools providing on hand support staffs.
They've also conducted crisis intervention with over 200 families.
Muhammad said the greatest gift is seeing children he’s helped become youth advocates.