A community in mourning starts program to help youth

Three weeks after Cumberland County lost four young people to violence, the community has started a program to engage young people before they get into trouble.

The Crab Orchard Mayor and concerned citizens had the idea to start an after school program before the quadruple shooting on Renegade Mountain.But he says it couldn't be more needed than right now.

"I think it's opened a lot of eyes. Kids will take advantage of it and parents will take advantage of it. So I think it's happening at the right time," said Crab Orchard Mayor Emmett Sherrill.

The city teamed up with child advocacy center "House of Hope" for a pilot program with three teenagers.

Founder Denise Melton, who has worked with youth for 20 years, developed the program.

"The members of the community realized there was a problem," Melton said. "The fact that we started working this a month before this trajedgy happened... I like to think God walks before us and he's preparing us."

The program holds classes each week to teach life skills, but it also hold them accountable by giving them responsibilty.

The teens come up with their own volunteer projects and help out at House of Hope's thrift store.

"It's been a good experience for all of us. I think it's helped us learn a lot about the community and the things that have been going on," said 17-year-old Austin Hawn.

"I see so much potential in these young men and it has just warmed my heart to see how excited they are about this program and that excites me," said Melton.

The after school program is still lacking a name but they have plenty of goals.

"We want to help them be able to get their driver's license, to learn how to do applications and resumes. We hope to get the community involed with job shadowing at different places," Melton said.

They hope to expand to all age groups and young ladies in the future.


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