Community organizations work to keep youth off the streets

By Orko Manna

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    SACRAMENTO, California (KCRA) -- As Sacramento police continue to search for those responsible for Sunday’s mass shooting, community members are focused on trying to prevent future acts of violence.

Detectives have also said that the evidence is pointing to gang violence. That latest development in the investigation has put a spotlight on gang prevention efforts in Sacramento.

Jason Dillard is the co-founder of Academics 4 Athletes, a nonprofit with the main goal of keeping kids off the streets. The organization works with about 100 kids, ages 12 to 18, mostly in the Del Paso Heights area. Playing basketball is a big part of their programming, but they also do group discussions and camping trips – all to provide an alternative avenue from gang involvement.

"They need energy, they need life pumped into them, encouragement sometimes, and that's the role that we play,” Dillard said. “We’re trying to help them realize that there’s more than what they currently imagine.”

The same goes for the work Tyler McClure does. McClure is a youth advocate for Voice of the Youth, and he also recently started an organization called Gifted Misfits Incorporated. Through both roles, McClure mentors people ages 5 to 22.

"Everything that we do is geared toward keeping them out of gang violence,” McClure said.

McClure said many people turn to gangs because they are looking for support – something they are likely not getting at home.

"You have to find a sense of belonging somewhere, otherwise you might find yourself on the wrong side of a bullet,” McClure said. “And so to be sure that our young people don't get caught up in that, we have to create these spaces ourselves."

But McClure said more investment is needed from the city to widen their reach. He recommends creating spaces for solid sports programs so that a lack of money isn't an issue keeping families from taking their kids there.

The city of Sacramento’s Office of Violence Prevention has a Gang Prevention and Intervention Task Force. According to their website, their grant program has given out around $5 million in grants to over 30 community-based organizations since 2016.

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