A gathering tonight will mark five successful years for Des Moines’ “Creative Visions” program. Ako Abdul-Samad says he worked in prisons, with YMCA and Urban Dreams, but saw a gap where troubled young people were between a successful life and one on the wrong side of the law. Abdul-Samad says his idea was to have young people help themselves, and others, change the direction of their lives. Today Creative Visions celebrates five years and 300 kids rescued from the streets and working at jobs in Iowa. Abdul-Samad says he grew up in Iowa, always wanted to help struggling young people, but found one of his first jobs, counseling young prisoners, didn’t seem to be setting them on the right track.He says he watched them “graduate” from incarceration at Eldora to other prisons for older offenders. He says when they were out of prison, they were drifting in the gap between the right and wrong side of the law.Programs were missing young people dabbling in crime, prostitution, and the underground economy. Part of the solution, he says, is to take young people with no direction and help them draw out a plan for where their life is going, or could go.Abdul-Samad says Creative Visions partnered with local trade schools and unions, to get kids into jobs and education. Today he says there are fourteen companies on board. A dinner tonight will include a roast and birthday party for founder Ako Abdul-Samad, a fifth anniversary celebration for Creative Visions, and the kickoff of a new fundraising drive titled “Five for Five.”Since the program’s 5 years old, they’ll ask for donations of five, fifty, or five thousand dollars. Abdul-Samad says in the program’s five years, over 300 people have become employed and are off the streets.
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