Peoria launching anti-gang program for students

Jan 15, 2014

Peoria is launching a pilot program next month aimed at stopping youth from joining gangs.  The state-funded ‘Don’t Start’ program includes two schools in Peoria District 150 and runs through the summer.  The anti-violence project pays for weekly gang-prevention talks, home visits for at-risk students and GED classes for parents.  Renee Andrews is principal at Trewyn Middle School, that’s seen students involved in gang activity.  She says it’s important that the Don’t Start Program targets students before high school:

 “They’ll still listen to you.  If they know you care they will still listen to you.  But as they get older, they start making more decisions for themselves, you know, and they tend to shut off a lot of people who maybe are nutlike-minded who don’t think like they do or who are involved in the things that they are involved in so this is a very critical age.”

 ‘Don’t Start’ is meant to compliment Peoria’s anti-violence initiative known as ‘Don’t Shoot.’ That program gives gang members a chance to put down their guns for good through community support programs.  State funding for the Don’t Start program will go away this summer if the number of parental involvement and student behavior problems don’t change.