PORTSMOUTH, Va. – As Portsmouth leaders work to stem the tide of violent crime, one native and community activist is doing his part to keep kids on the right path.
The kids come from all different neighborhoods and spend part of their day outside of their homes at a community center in London Oaks.
The new summer youth program is known as GYM, which stands for Giving Youth Motivation.
Taking part in GYM helps kids take their minds off some of the seemingly endless gunfire.
“I hear shootings sometimes," said 10-year-old Jaden Brown of Portsmouth. “When I’m outside when I hear [that], I go straight in the house with my sister.”
The free program is a partnership between Portsmouth’s Parks and Rec department and Darrell Redmond’s nonprofit Give Back 2 Da Block.
Redmond said it’s aimed at getting through to at-risk youth and motivating them.
“We have to motivate them physically, mentally, emotionally, socially,” he said. “We have to use a holistic approach.”
Redmond came up with the idea after spending much of his life behind bars. He brought it to London Oaks – the neighborhood grew up in.
“How my cycle of violence happened is, when I didn’t have something to do, I found something to do,” Redmond said. “When they have something that’s routine because we are creatures of habit if we know we have something that’s going on, it keeps us looking forward to it.”
The kids not only come to let loose and just be kids, but they also learn life skills. Redmond said he’s already seeing a difference in how they interact with each other and communicate.
“He teaches us manners. He teaches us how to be respectful and to respect grownups,” said 10-year-old Zhinae Mclurin. “He talked to us about gun violence. Never use a gun on somebody. If you need help, just call 911.”
Deasjah Jones, 10, agreed.
“Don’t be disrespectful and be nice,” she said.
The goal of GYM, Redmond said, is to keep kids on the right path, out of trouble, and show them positive influences to break the cycle of violence.
GYM runs Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon each week at the London Oaks Community Center.