Local Spotlight: The Kheprw Institute

Aristotle famously said, “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” This insight is especially true in the modern world where youth are facing pressures that have real impact on their lives. Whether it’s isolation, access to resources, or just social support, they need the help of the people around them. This is what propelled three members in the Indianapolis community to launch the Kheprw Institute (KI) in 2003.

The premise was powerful. Under the founders — Imhotep Adisa, Paulette Fair and Pambana Uishi — KI began as a non-profit organization with a purpose to create a formal experience for five particular young black men to grow and thrive. Now, KI has grown to serve hundreds of young people of all backgrounds, with a focus on community empowerment and self-mastery.

At its core, KI is about growing community wealth, but not simply in the financial sense of the word. “Wealth itself is really much broader than that,” says co-founder Imhotep Adisa in a KI video interview. “It’s your intellectual wealth,…the breadth and depth of your relationships with others in your community, spiritual wealth, your heart, music, art…All those things make up wealth in your community.”

Middle school and high schoolers have an opportunity to learn more about the importance of community wealth through KI’s internship program. Students can decide between technology, urban agriculture, or environmental tracks, all under the umbrella of ESTEAM (entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, art and music). No matter what direction they choose, the goal is to learn critical thinking skills, leadership development, and to sit under mentors for the year they participate.

KI also created a youth development program called We Run This, for youth re-entering society from prison. Students learn culinary skills, nutritional awareness and entrepreneurship. The program offers an opportunity for young adults to learn from mentors while gaining important skills in catering and food services that can help them thrive outside of incarceration.

“We’re holding each other accountable to love and to community,” says Adisa, in a 2020 WISH-TV interview.

Over the years, KI has expanded to offer programs and events that range from providing funding for businesses serving underrepresented communities, community food initiatives, and a community land trust, to offering an outlet for art and an online framework to start important community conversations, like climate justice. Amidst this work, last year KI purchased 17 acres of farmland on the southside of Indianapolis to expand their food initiative.

KI continues to grow, flourishing from the community they’ve built and continue to build. For Indianapolis youth facing challenges, we all have to start somewhere. “You start with what you have, where you are,” says Adisa in a video interview.

To connect with the Kheprw Institute, go to their website: kheprw.org. On the site, you can find the application for the youth internship program, as well as details on all the other work they’re doing in the Indianapolis area.

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