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What is Starts Right Here?

As more information is released and investigation into the Monday shooting continues, many might be wondering: What exactly is SRH, and what does it do?

DES MOINES, Iowa — Two students were killed and an employee was hospitalized in a Monday, Jan. 23 shooting at Starts Right Here, a Des Moines outreach center for at-risk youth.

As more information is released and the investigation into the shooting continues, many might be wondering: What exactly is SRH, and what does it do?

What is Starts Right Here?

SRH is a program that provides Des Moines kids with the opportunity to "rise above the circumstances they were born into" by providing a safe space for the students to complete their self-paced learning or credit recovery programs.

This includes mentoring, tutoring and various arts programs meant to offer guidance for students working through personal, educational and systemic hurdles. 

Who is Will Keeps, the president of SRH?

Will Keeps, also known as William Holmes, is a rapper who writes and performs songs that aim to empower youth and speak against violence. 

After witnessing his friend's murder at 15 in Chicago, Keeps said he was beaten and stabbed by gang members. He then decided to start spreading messages that would save lives. 

Keeps moved to Des Moines in his 20s and began mentoring youth with the ManUp Iowa program. As he released more music like "Wake Up Iowa" and partnered with local authorities, SRH took form.

How are the Des Moines Police Department and Des Moines Public Schools involved in SRH?

SRH has relationships with many citywide officials, public departments and Iowa leaders. Their board of directors includes Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert, and Gov. Kim Reynolds is part of their advisory board.

Though SRH is not a state-approved charter school, it has paired with Des Moines Public Schools since 2021 to accomplish two main goals, according to DMPS: assist students in the district's Options Academy credit recovery program and help students no longer in a school building due to behavioral issues.

SRH helps provide technology, resources and job readiness programs for up to 50 DMPS students at a time, according to the district.

Keeps and SRH also have a long history of working with DMPD to produce music videos and informational content against violence.

He told Local 5 in 2016 that he met Wingert in the early 2010s, when their daughters played sports together. After becoming friends and sharing his vision for a collaboration, the rest was history.

“This seemed like an interesting way to further that outreach, and Will’s heart is in the right place and obviously, he’s very, very talented,” Wingert said in 2016. 

Other SRH community partnerships include DART, Polk County Sheriff's Office, the Iowa Department of Human Resources, United Way of Central Iowa and more. 

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