Local advocates say getting kids involved is key to reducing youth crime

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO)- Following the arrest of five Rockford juveniles for aggravated battery and robbery Wednesday morning, local advocates stress the importance of getting kids involved in youth programs.

Carl Cole and his wife Dianna run the Young Eagles Success– or “YES”- Club. For decades, they’ve been mentoring local kids with the help of music. Although Covid-19 has limited the group’s ability to put on live performances, they’re still holding small group sessions and meeting consistently over Zoom.

“When kids are learning, that’s something they have to be doing every single day, all day long,” said Dianna. “Their atmosphere needs to be a learning and educational atmosphere. And not just book learning.”

“We come and talk about how to behave, and how to act, how to work together, and we heal social injustice, everything,” said Carl. “We’re talking about all of that. But they also get a chance to dance, they get a chance to do projects where they can be like the movie stars.”

Another option for kids is the local non-profit Youth Against Violence. Group leaders offer several group activities designed to help kids grow, including a performing arts program where kids learn to play percussion music.

“There’s countless stats that reinforce why music education is positive for youth,” said Thomas Parker, executive director of Youth Against Violence. “The morality and the skills that come with it, you can take it beyond the four walls. You can actually take it with you and apply it outside of here.”

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