We've seen our fair share of issues plague communities over the summer, but there are efforts and programs in place to make sure that some of the most vulnerable youths are on the right path.

“I learned like how to like be patient and situations or learn how to make friends or ... learn to be yourself,” said Payton Perry.

What You Need To Know

  • There are countless organizations within communities across Central New York that help keep kids engaged and safe

  • This is especially important when there is lots of down time, like in the summer

  • Families that take advantage of these programs feel safe and that their children are learning how to break harmful cycles within communities

Perry is a bright 10-year-old with Asperger's syndrome who lives in South Syracuse. He’s been able to take advantage of several programs with the Dunbar Association that have kept hundreds of local children busy.

“It got me out of the house to do something and I met new friends. I did new things, like tennis, I never did before. I kind of went out of my comfort zone,” said Perry.

And his mother Chayna Short has been soaking in his excitement.

“Every week, he had a different story to tell me or something new that he learned from participating in the summer program,” said Short.

She was not just glad that Payton was involved, but Short wants to see more of Syracuse’s youth involved in their down time. Time spent with other kids in an enriching environment has been a blessing for Payton and his mother, she said, and she knows more families can grow if they get involved.

“Our community is rich with many, many resources. Just have to lead people to them. Let the kids know that you guys can do fun things. It doesn't always have to be in the streets. Being in the streets isn't fun," said Short.

Born and raised on the southside, she sees programs like the ones hosted by Dunbar as a way to break several harmful cycles.

“If you don't have people in the ear, in your corner, talking about college, how HBCUs, you can apply and I have applied, and I have a job, you can have a job, right, then our kids won't see it,” said Short. ”But if we keep pouring into our again our opportunities and having a dialogue with when they’re young? They have a goal to reach.”

While keeping busy and overcoming adversity every day now, Payton has already got things working for his future, starting with some memories and rockets made over the summer.

“I made both of them. I think at the end, we're gonna add stickers to it, and it's gonna go up and fly away,” said Perry.