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Richmond leaders introduce new gun violence prevention program

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:32 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond is looking to get guns away from the hands of at-risk teens through a grant-funded program.

Mayor Levar Stoney hopes this program will help swerve these kids from ever having to consider even picking up a firearm.

“We’re going to wrap our arms around these children and shepherd them through some of the most formative, and sometimes challenging, times of their life,” Stoney said.

Stoney made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon, alongside Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith and others.

“It’s crucial that we keep weapons and firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them,” Smith said.

The new $500,000 grant-funded program will help guide 40 students, currently from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and River City Middle School.

Support during the school day would come from Communities in Schools, a non-profit that will provide intervention for the children and families.

After school, the students will be broken up into groups for more activities, organized by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, along with mental health-focused non profit, ChildSavers.

“It will be engaging and have a heavy focus on practical application, creating a pathway to employment,” said Stoney.

The students chosen are primarily “over-age” students: 15 and 16-year-olds who are still in middle school and may not be interested in other school invention programs.

“When you’re 15 or 16, you might not want to go to a dance class with 12 and 13-year-olds, so we’re trying to find age-appropriate and relevant programming,” said Eva Colen with the Office of Children and Families.

The mayor says the program would target students who haven’t engaged in violent behavior, but that their life situations constantly have them toeing the line.

The Office of Children and Families says they are still awaiting funding for that grant, but they expect rollout of the program to begin sometime in October.

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