Teens volunteer to remove blight in neighborhood

INDIANAPOLIS -- For Montez Williams, the hum of a lawnmower and the whir of a weedwacker is a dream come true.

Williams lost his teen years in the judicial system. He spent seven years in and out of juvenile detention and prison.

"I just told myself, I got to do something different," Williams, who goes by Ace, said.

He decided he didn't want kids to lose their teen years, as he did. 

"I went through a lot of stuff that I don't want them to go through because I barely survived what I went through," Williams said. "Instead of me killing myself, I was going out doing things to make people want to kill me. That was my way that I was living."

He spoke to kids in his neighborhood, and many of them just wanted the chance to do some work.

"They're ready before I am," Williams said. "Like they're waking me up, like 'We working today?'"

Williams, 20, started letting them help out with his landscaping business, paying them a few bucks here and there. But he saw a bigger opportunity.

"They took the neighbor out of the neighborhood and they just call it the hood," he said. "It's not a neighborhood anymore. I want them to feel like they live inside of a neighborhood."

Williams partnered with the Ross Foundation and brought about a dozen teenagers together to fix up blighted houses in the area.

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"We live in this community," Derris Ross of the Ross Foundation said. "I think we need to take care of our own community."

The Ace Project will go out every Sunday throughout the summer to fix up blighted properties, even picking up trash along the medians on the far east side. Organizers hope to partner with the city in the future to make it a summer employment program for the teens. 

"I want to give these youth the childhood that I wish I had," Williams said. 

If you would like to help, click here to email the Ace Project

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