ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – One local club is working to keep youth off the streets.
After several recent shootings involving teens, Young Eagles Success, or Yes, Club leaders are working to intervene early. Combatting violence, drugs and crime was the focus of Monday’s event, but leaders said that they hope addressing social and emotional stress will have a larger impact on violence and crime among kids.
Carl Cole, the founder of Rockford’s Yes Club, works with kids and teens on character development, and saying no to violence, drugs and alcohol.
“I can help them with bad consequences, like being in the hospital for violence, going to jail, or even being dead,” Cole said. “It really boils down to what they feel about themselves and others and that can only be fixed by you teaching them the right things and the right way.”
Referencing the shooting last week between two teens in Rockford, and the murder of a 16-year-old in Freeport, Cole said that he uses those as a teaching moment, as well as stressing how important a teen’s mental health is,
“If I want to talk about light, my best tool is to talk about darkness. Say ‘I don’t want to be in the dark, I don’t, I want to turn the lightswitch on,'” Cole said. “A positive support system of people who say ‘Hey, I’m proud of you when you do good things,’ because we know it had to be emotional, which is what the shootings are all about, ‘I’m mad, or I’m bent out of shape, so I’m going to shoot you.'”
Ethan Nguyen, the President of the club, said that the violence is horrific.
“I also sometimes think of, ‘what are they going through.’ Also, you know, there’s always a story within everyone else,” Nguyen said.
Both Cole and Nguyen are hopeful that The Yes Club will make a difference.
“We should really be one big community, almost,” Nguyen said.
“I think we can get to the root of a lot of what’s happening, and we can save some of the young people, and help them to be ambassadors for peace, so this doesn’t keep happening,” added Cole.
Cole said that he is now working with school districts to bring their workshops to the classroom.