NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Dozens of teens filled Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church on their first step in a long rehabilitation process.
They gathered as part of the Gentleman and Not Gangsters, or G.A.N.G, program, which had its orientation Wednesday evening.
“It’s an extensive 12-week program designed to change the mindset of the young men that are in the program,” explained Bishop Marcus Campbell
The program is a joint effort between Mt. Carmel Missionary and and Metro-Nashville’s juvenile system.
The orientation, though, is the first crucial step.
“We like to let them know what to be looking forward to, and what we’re not gonna have for them in the class,” said Campbell.
Up front, the focus of orientation is a casket. Inside the casket are the names of every teenager in attendance.
“We ask them to come up and pull their tag out,” noted Campbell. “That’s a symbol showing that from this day forward, they’re making the decision not to wind up in the box.”
It’s a decision 18-year-old Larry Benson made. The former gang member now says he has a new set of morals.
“It’s not what everybody thinks it is. It’s not cool. It’s not what people should do,” said Benson, describing his time in a gang.
It was not long ago that Larry pulled his name from the casket. Today, he pulls his young son in a stroller after advice from mom changed his life for the better.
“My mom always be like, ‘You need to change. You need to change. You have a son on the way. You need to change,” said Benson.
“I think I did good. I think I’m doing really good, and I think I’m going to continue doing good,” he added.