High Point leaders strengthening mentorship programs to address teen violence in city

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- City leaders of High Point said that they have heard of a disturbing trend involving gang members and students in city schools.

High Point Mayor Jay Wagner explained students have told city leaders they have been approached by members while at school. Sometimes these have happened as early as 8th grade.

“So many of these gangs are recruiting kids younger and younger,” Wagner said.

During a private 2019 forum, city leaders interviewed 20 High Point students. Out of those 20, 17 of them said they had been contacted by gang members. The ages involved 8th, 9th and 10th graders.

“I can’t tell you the level of sad that is. These students have their whole life in front of them,” Wagner said.

One of those students involved in the forum was Malcolm Wilson. He is now a freshman in high school but said when he was in middle school, a gang member approached him and his friends.

“A guy just came up to me and said I think you’d be really good for this...I said ‘naw dude, I’m good,’” Wilson said.

Students described to city leaders that people had approached male students with promises of money and power, while women were promised protection.

Wilson said he turned down those offers because he wanted to pursue a career in football or engineering.

He also explained that he is heavily involved with after school programs at the YMCA.

It’s that involvement that city leaders want to capitalize on.

Along with speaking with students, city leaders held a forum with representatives from various organizations throughout the city that deal with students.

Among those who attended were representatives from the YWCA, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, Macedonia Head Start and High Point Leap.

They were encouraged to strengthen the sense of community between each other and use one another as a resource as well as tell each other about various programs, events or special deals they are having to better serve students.

“Macedonia [Head Start] didn’t know that the Y offers free gym memberships to students during the Summer,” Wagner said. “Macedonia was like, ‘wow, I have students who could really take advantage of that.’”

The city also has discussed the addition of anti-violence mentorship programs in schools throughout the city that would be organizations run by student that speak directly to their classmates.

“If you’re surrounded by people that want you to do good, to be good and to succeed then you are more than likely going to succeed,” Wilson said.

This is something that the city is still developing and has not discussed with Guilford County Schools.

FOX8 contacted Guilford County Schools and the High Point Police Department regarding the accounts of gang members approaching students.

High Point Police representatives said their SROs have not heard of any rumors or reports of that matter. However, they are there to protect students and their learning environment and will continue to do that and investigate any matters brought to their attention.

City leaders said they have two other projects in the works to stop violence in the city.

They are working on a city-wide anti-violence campaign that will involve businesses and will look to develop a summer jobs programs for students.

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