LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It's been an alarming trend in the Lake area-- more teens involved in deadly violence. A youth initiative was started and it appears to be bearing fruit.
Their dress, their confidence, their respectfulness seems to set them apart from your typical teen.
They participated in an "Impact Forum" held at Lake Charles Boston Academy.
Director Braylon Harris explains how the students were chosen:
"Each one of these young men passed what we call the cafeteria test. We were given some names from the counselors of people that probably had some influence. We didn't care whether it was positive influence or negative influence, just influence. So we went into the cafeterias and if that student got up and four or five guys followed them then we knew we had the right guy. That guy had influence, and some of them were not using it in the best direction, but we knew they had influence," Harris said.
After 24 weeks, each stepped up and spoke to peers and mentors on one of four team topics including positive attitude:
"Just, don't be negative going into school. Just don't be upset that you have to go in the first place. Just be positive and grateful that you're there and be positive for all the opportunities and resources you have," said student Darren Metoyer.
"The most important point I made tonight was the statistics because those numbers were high. I personally think the number could be lowered if we do something about it.," said Jace Rochon, who is only eleven.
"We want to take the kids who are borderline to failure, we want to bring those kids up and we want to like help everybody. We want our whole generation to become successful because we want our future to be bright," said 13 year old Eric Beloney.
And respect for authority.
"If you're being disrespectful and doing all this other kind of stuff, you can't make it to what you want to do. So, if you start being respectful now, it's going to lead you a long way to what you want to do," said Jaqualon Pettieway who is age 13.
Fourteen year old Derrick Williams has learned firsthand, the benefits of being respectful.
"I used to be the kid in class that was always clowning around, the kid in class who couldn't keep their mouth closed. I had a teacher named Ms. Jones. I fought with her every day. I fought and fought and fought and I lost. And having that respect for her every time I see her now is like, 'I thank you for teaching me that.' One day, I'm going to meet someone and I'm not going to win and I have to find the right way to do things instead of my way," he said.
Hearing from the young men as they spoke to their peers and adult mentors was moving for those who looked on and Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier, who started the program.
"You've shown me something. You've shown me the light at the end of the tunnel. These young men are the light at the end of the tunnel!" said DeRosier.
The program is expanding to include more young men, who with caring mentors, may have a better shot at success.
To hear more about the Impact Agency and associated activities look for our web extra with Pastor Braylon Harris. To contact the District Attorney's Office call 337-437-3400.