Mayor-elect Berke holds public forum on youth development - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Mayor-elect Berke holds public forum on youth development

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Channel 3's Donna Elle moderating a discussion. Channel 3's Donna Elle moderating a discussion.

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- It's the second in a string of public forums meant to help curb violence in our city.

Thursday night, Mayor-elect Andy Berke hosted a forum to address youth development.

Hundreds turned out to discuss a recent rash of gang violence, and how to tackle it through education and community involvement.

Like other parents, Caprice Wofford worries about her son's safety, education and future.

At 16 years old, he's already experienced more than some adults.

"There's been a lot of gun violence," Wofford says. "My son has witnessed some gun violence and that kind of thing. It's just not feeling safe in your neighborhood."

Wofford was one of about 500 Chattanoogans who packed the Chattanooga State gymnasium with one thing in mind: the city's youth.

"I think the kids have the best ideas," Wofford says. "They know what's going on. They know what's wrong."

A few dozen young people participated in the forum meant to help reduce crime by reaching all 35,000 children living in our community.

"I told them that we need more field trips, and to keep violence off the streets," says 12-year-old Keasia Shropshire.

Teens have their own ideas on how to reach their peers, but they all agree having an adult to look up to is important.

"Because they can elevate them and tell them what's right and what's wrong," says Shropshire.

"Whether it's a parent, a neighbor, an aunt, someone that kids know is going to show up for them," Katie Snow says. "It really does make a difference."

Snow is an alternative school teacher. She says parental involvement is key.

If a parent isn't available, someone else in the community must step up so that no child is forgotten.

"I have taught children from every Hamilton County middle and high school," Snow says. "They all come from the same kind of offenses. To me, it's getting to the core of what really is the problem."

With lists of concerns, suggestions and ways they can help, those participating say it's a start.

Young people are ready to help how they can.

"Talk to our friends and get them out of gangs," says Shropshire.

Berke hosted a public safety forum two weeks ago.

He plans to host one on economic development in the future, but a date has not been set.

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