GANG Program Aims To Get Kids Out Of Gangs

Posted at 10:31 PM, Nov 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-25 23:31:05-05

It stands for Gentlemen And Not Gangsters, and the GANG program has been working to mentor at-risk teens toward fulfilling, productive life choices.

With speeches and songs, it may sound like any other graduation.

"When we look at you we see something that reminds us of ourselves," said one of the mentors to his students.

But the graduation Wednesday at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church was much more personal. Nine young men on probation were publicly recognized in a positive way. That's not something they're very used to.

"Y'all know that I love y'all," another mentor said, looking down at them from the stage, ''but you also know that the test starts when you leave here."

The grads are all on juvenile probation. They were recommended by the juvenile courts.

"I was loitering during school hours so the police had to stop me," said 18-year-old David Washington. He said when they stopped him they found marijuana on him. He was dealing drugs, heading for a local college campus.

Washington said at first he didn't want to be a part of Mt. Carmel's GANG program.

"My probation officer called me because one day I was fixing to stop coming. And he was like just 'see it through and you'll be out of probation.' And I kept coming. It got fun after that," he said.

This GANG has been made of former street gang members, from many of the participants to the mentors.

"We used to rob, kick in doors, tie up families," said Bishop Marcus Campbell. "Take just about everything they had."

That's why they said it works. The guys who have been there can show their gunshot and stabbing scars to the teens. They can talk about what it was like to make the change, first-hand.

"If I can change I know anyone can," said Bishop Campbell.

David said he's done a lot of growing up these past eight weeks.

"I realize what's wrong and what's right, and I think about the consequences before I do anything," he said.

And he's not alone.

"They changed my whole mindset of being a criminal," another participant said on stage.

So as this community holds its arms out toward its children in prayer, they promise to be there. Because this is a journey that's just getting started.