ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A 12-year-old was among a group of teens accused of robbing a woman at gunpoint on Tuesday, and five teens were part of a shooting at the Rockford Speedway during a summer fair on Saturday.

With children often as the perpetrators of violent crime, the Northwest Community Center says mentoring programs, for kids at risk of becoming offenders, are a key tactic in teen violence prevention.

“There is violence, there are some crimes that happen, youth involved, but there are so many other things that are so positive,” said executive director Tabatha Endres-Cruz. “I think it’s important to make sure that kids are exposed to those positive things.”

Northwest Community Center has been mentoring youth for over 75 years.

“We know that if they start young and they’re connected and engaged in a positive program at a young age, that helps set that path forward and maintains that positive path forward,” Endres-Cruz continued. “And that’s really what our ultimate goal is, to keep them on that positive path so that they can not stray and they can be productive members of the community.”

On average, the community center caters to 120 children from kindergarten through high school, focusing on developmental skills, career awareness, team building, and character development.

“It doesn’t matter what side of town you come from, you need positive inputs in your life throughout your whole life. And if kids have that from the start, we know that they will have a positive, happy adult start to their adult life. And that’s what that’s what we’re all here for,” she said.

Northwest Community Center, at 1325 N Johnston Avenue, has a summer camp program starting June 9th, open to any student entering 1st through 6th grade in the Rockford Public School system.