In response to recent shootings involving teens, a new Fort Worth initiative aims to reduce gun violence among teens.

Launched Tuesday, the Fort Worth Violence Intervention Program, led by District 8 Councilman Chris Nettles, brings existing violence prevention organizations to local Fort Worth schools.

The initiative’s first presentations were at Fort Worth Polytechnic High School, where speakers shared their personal experiences with gun violence in hopes of inspiring students to make better choices.

Ronny Mitchell spoke on behalf of the band Unity Over Violence.

“The hardest thing to do right now in Dallas-Fort Worth is to turn 25. It’s the hardest thing to do right now. It’s sad that we’re losing kids at the age of 18 and 19,” Mitchell said. “I want you to listen to me and listen to me well. Seize this opportunity. Take this opportunity to do something with your life.

A spokesperson for the Fort Worth Police Department confirmed Tuesday that there have been 36 homicides in the city of Fort Worth in 2022 as of May 5. At that time in 2021, there were 33. Councilor Nettles said the inspiration behind the new initiative came from recent violent crime cases, pointing to the fatal late April shooting of a Crowley high school student.

Rashard Guinyard, 17, was described as an outstanding scholar and student-athlete who ran on the track and had planned to attend Abilene Christian University.

“My heart is there. Seeing children lose their lives, having scholarships and having a family that cares so much about them, it just put a fire in my foot that said ‘you can do something’ ”, Nettles said. “My message to [students] was, will they be the ones who will be part of the process and not the problem? »

Nettles told the student crowd on Tuesday that he is a father of four children, ages 5 to 15. The issue of violence is something he has talked about with his own children.

“I talk to my kids about being a leader, being an example, and watching who you hang out with. I mentioned today, you’re the one dragging yourself. Two things happen. You can become them, or they can become you,” he said.

Melinda Hamilton, founder of Mothers Of Murdered Angels, also spoke to students on Tuesday. Hamilton lost daughter Shemeka to Rodriquez, 25, in June 2018 along with grandson Derrick Johnson in March 2020 to gun violence.

“My grandson was 19 years old. He had just graduated that year. He was going to go to the Navy and everything,” Hamilton said. “They were innocent people. It wasn’t like they were in a gang or anything like that. They were killed for no reason. Shemika had left work. She was with a friend.

The Hamilton group is dedicated to helping families navigate the legal and financial processes of losing a loved one to violent crime, and they are now partnering with the new initiative launched this week.

“I brought it up because I mean…it’s necessary. These kids are killing each other,” Hamilton said. “We are survivors. We are not the victims. We are survivors right now. We know our babies are gone, but we can help someone else.

Nettles said they also plan to visit Dunbar and Everman High Schools before the end of the 2021-2022 school year, adding that they want to work with other schools that may be interested.

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