Nashville program helps high-risk teens with gang ties

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Teen violence is up in Nashville, but one program is working to bring that number down.

The Gentlemen Not Gangsters, or G.A.N.G., program is offered to high-risk teens with gang ties.

Metro’s juvenile justice system partnered with Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in North Nashville to offer the program.

Bishop Marcus Campbell started G.A.N.G as a former gang member himself.

“Often these teens are looking for family or they’re missing something and that’s why they join gangs,” he told News 2. “But we show them that there are other things out there than what they’re accustomed to. We show them that the sky’s the limit for them if they really want to strive to get there.”

Five teenagers graduated Wednesday night. Unfortunately, some of the teens dropped out before then.

But for the teens who completed the program, both they and their parents see a future brighter than the one they had before.

Dad William Warrick says his son T.J. Warrick was following in his footsteps.

“I was in prison for most of his life,” Warrick told News 2. “I think he’s learned a lot of stuff from this and I see him going down a positive path away from my footsteps.”

Mom Renita Stewart lost a son to gang violence. She hopes through this program her other son, Hezekiah Wilson, won’t suffer the same fate.

“I see him off better than he was and I’m proud of him,” she said.

The class valedictorian was 17-year-old Larry Benson, who was a former gang member. He has a son and says his focus is now on graduating and taking care of his family.

“I was just being a person I know I’m not and I knew I could change,” Benson told News 2. “I’m focusing on being good and staying out the way, having a good family.”

In order to graduate, the teens have to attend weekly classes and show they’ve changed.

This Thursday, News 2 is exploring the teen violence plaguing the city throughout the day beginning at 4 a.m. Click here to read more.