The time to talk about curbing youth violence in South Bend has ended. The time to act has begun.
“I mean we're actually hitting the streets, we're out there we're talking to people,” said Pastor Terry Vaughn of the Fit for the Kingdom Ministries. “My words were that bad choices and violence don’t keep office hours.”
Earlier this year, a couple of high profile town hall meetings on youth violence were hosted by former Notre Dame Basketball coach Digger Phelps.
Since that time, community leaders like Vaughn have quietly started dropping a dragnet for drop outs and potential drop outs.
“A lot of kids that we run into aren't coping well in public schools maybe too many rules they don't want to take the hat off, maybe their language is a little bit different,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn is still a pastor by day, but by night, he has become somewhat of a high school recruiter--attempting to lure individuals into alternative high school programs.
On four separate Friday nights, Vaughn has taken part in similar efforts headquartered at the Kroc Center. “But on the Kroc Center on Friday nights now, we’re using, from 9:00 to 11:00 that facility for basketball or for flag football or for defensive boxing so that these kids come in,” said Community Activist Digger Phelps. “We don’t need any more meetings; we’ve got enough in place. There’s other things that will work, but let’s take what we have right now and start getting some of these guys and save them from killing each other.”
Another initiative is underway at the St. Joseph County Juvenile Justice Center to establish a new school that would exclusively serve youths who have finished doing time behind bars. The school would be run by the faith based “Crossing.”
“So instead of the kids coming back from the Department of Corrections and going right into the high school, and as a high school principal for 20 years, I know exactly what that meant, that's an unsuccessful model. What we want to do is create a transition program working with J.J.C. so when the kids return from the Department of Corrections they'll go right into this school at the J.J.C,” said The Crossing’s Rob Stahly.
While discussions are preliminary, there has also been some talk about bringing an anti-gang program into the South Bend schools. It’s known as the GREAT program, which stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training and it’s affiliated with the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.