Richmond teen summit aimed at steering youth away from violence

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Community leaders in Richmond are preparing for their annual teen summit, designed to steer youngsters away from a path of violence.

The event is called Stay Out of Prison for Life, organized by area radio personality, Miss Community Clovia. It's a chance for area youth to draw inspiration from those who have made mistakes, who don't want the next generation to repeat them.

"Mom always tell[s] me, 'Work now, play later,' " teenage rapper Rapunzel performed in a video.

It's music with a message. Rapunzel, seen on the Lifetime television show "The Rap Game," will make an appearance for a big event next week aimed at inspiring youth.

"Sometimes, our teens have some problems with communicating because they don't have all of the words to do so. They act out physically," Clovia Lawrence said.

So the annual teen summit is working to turn that around through its event, Stay Out of Prison for Life.

"We want our kids to live it out here, not behind a cell block or prison wall," Lawrence added.

There will be interaction with local police officers, former teenage inmates, and even a venting session for teens to speak their minds on issues impacting them -- like bullying.

"In order for it to be bullying, there has to be a real or perceived power imbalance," said Licensed Clinical Social Worker Spencer Ferguson.

Ferguson is seeing a growing number of bullying cases and wants to see more done to address it.

"A lot of people still say, 'It's a rite of passage.' It's not a rite of passage. It's assault and assault and battery and harassment," Ferguson said.

Community leaders say they're ready to address it. A representative from the Virginia Parole Board will also be on hand breaking down crimes and the prison time that comes with a variety of convictions.

"Whether it's an accident or you maliciously wound someone, she's going to put the sentences that are attached to that," Lawrence explained.

Serious topics explored in a fun setting where teenagers can let loose, walking away with tools to help them overcome the odds.

"It's all about our teens on that day," Lawrence said.

"When you talk about me, say 'She do[es] her thing.' I win. I win," Rapunzel continued in her video.

The event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Trinity Family Life Center at 3601 Dill Road in Richmond from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Copyright 2018 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.