Kids at the Fairgrounds Housing Complex had an open conversation about gangs Friday morning.
The founders of the Young Eagles Success Club – or YES Club — speaking with at-risk kids about how to avoid gangs, drugs and violence in their everyday lives.
Founder Carl Cole says, most of the time, the kids he speaks with already know the details of how gangs operate.
“I have said before, ‘Who knows what it means to get drunk?’ and they have named whiskey. I mean, they’ll name (brands), they’ll say ‘Hennessey’,” said Cole.
Cole says it’s important to be as transparent as possible with kids during these discussions, because it helps them open up and express their true feelings.
“We are very, very happy to tell kids the whole truth,” said Cole. “We talk about all the issues in the community, because in the next 5, 10 years, that’s who your leaders are gonna be.”
11-year-old Chris Pittman says he knows several kids his age who are already in gangs. He says the YES club has helped him learn how to avoid the same fate.
“I learn about helping others, being good at school, keeping my grades up,” said Pittman.
Cole says the only way to lower the crime rate in Rockford is to work from the inside out, educating kids on the consequences of bad behavior before they become involved in gangs.
“There has to be a transformation of character in order to have a transformation for a city or a community,” said Cole. “You have to transform the thinking and how they feel in order to change how they behave and how they act.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the Young Eagles Success Club and their initiative, click here.