Willie McCullah doesn't want to be a statistic.
Seeing so many of his peers -- young black males -- thrust into the criminal justice system and the headlines as suspects and victims pains him.
So the Ribault High School senior, who is headed for the Marine Corps, plans to volunteer at the upcoming Save Our Sons Summit. The free May 18 event, announced Tuesday, will kick off a year-long collaboration by 30 or so nonprofits, churches, government agencies and other groups to save Jacksonville's young black males, ages 10 to 18, a segment of the population that organizers call an "endangered species."
"It's true," McCullah, 17, said. "We're falling into the system. It hurts to know that."
Many of his friends and relatives are incarcerated. Others cannot get work and he fears they may turn to crime in frustration.
"It hurts to know you're losing someone," he said.
The hurt of so much loss led John Guns, senior pastor of St. Paul Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville, to organize the coalition and plan the summit. He said he hopes 1,000 parents and youth will attend to hear about parenting, mentoring, after-school and other programs that can help them. Political, educational, religious, law enforcement and legal leaders will be on hand to talk about their experiences.
Twenty-five of the most at-risk youth there will receive a year of comprehensive services to help turn them around.
"We must make a commitment," Guns said.
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SOURCE: Florida Times-Union
Beth Reese Cravey