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Making a Difference Starts Right Here

Starts Right Here in DSM

September 3, 2020

As students across the country get ready to go back to school, we’re facing a very different school year. Whether returning to in-person or virtual learning, this year faces its own unique set of challenges.

But what we don’t realize is the school year for many students, even in a COVID-free year, is challenging. Students who live below the poverty line are up against many challenges outside the classroom that can ultimately affect what goes on inside the classroom. For many of these students, the possibility that they will fall behind, or even drop out, is very real.

That’s a possibility Will Keeps wants to erase.

The Starts Right Here Movement

Keeps is a rapper and activist who came to Greater Des Moines (DSM) nearly 20 years ago from Chicago. In Chicago, Keeps lived in a world of gangs and violence. He was aggressive, sad and angry due to traumas from his childhood. Keeps eventually began to find healing through his music and by giving back to his community, which led to the Starts Right Here movement. The movement seeks to encourage and educate young people living in disadvantaged and oppressive circumstances using the arts, entertainment, music, hip hop and other programs. The ultimate goal is to break down barriers of fear, intimidation and other damaging factors leading to a sense of being disenfranchised, forgotten and rejected.

We first met Keeps through mutual friends in February, and we invited him to a charity bowling fundraiser. Upon meeting him, his energy and passion for the movement and empowering the youth of DSM was clear. We’ve both coached and mentored kids for over 20 years, so we know first-hand the impact a caring adult can have on a young person; it can alter the course of his or her life.

New Starts Right Here Headquarters

Now, the movement is taking physical form through the Starts Right Here headquarters. The headquarters will provide programming for youth, equipped with classrooms, an auditorium, a weight room and a recording studio to help empower students through music/art.

We had the chance to visit the space and discuss plans for the building when it is open. Starts Right Here still needs approximately $300,000 to complete the building. As our next Charity Challenge, we’re raising funds to help Starts Right Here reach its goal.

Take these steps to learn more and donate:

  1. Watch our video about Keeps’ vision for Starts Right Here
  2. Go to StartsRightHere.org and click on the “Donate Now” button
  3. Add “McGill Junge Fundraiser” to the special instructions/notes section
  4. Connect/Like/Follow Will Keeps on social media for updates on his progress

To date, we’ve raised almost $25K, and we’re not done yet. If Keeps has taught us anything, it’s every one of us can make a difference. And that difference, starts right here.

Greater Des Moines (DSM) welcomes diverse talent to the region. As one of the fastest growing business communities, inclusion and attracting diverse talent in the workplace is a key strategy of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Learn more here.