Gang activity in our schools is a growing problem here in the East, but one program is trying to stop it.
9 On Your Side visited the program run by the Methodist Home for Children in New Bern Wednesday, where the goal is to remove troubled teenage boys from their toxic environments, and help them learn to live independently and within the law.
That's where we met De'Quan Nelms, a 19-year-old who just a few years ago earned a rebellious nickname.
"Every time they saw me I was in trouble, trouble, trouble…" he says. "So, some people started calling me ‘Trouble' and it started sticking with me."
De'Quan got mixed up in the wrong crowd, joined a gang, and developed a lengthy rap sheet. But soon his criminal lifestyle that once seemed so glamorous became, "A headache," he says. "It's like one of those big headaches that just throbs and throbs and throbs."
After serving eight months in a youth development center and becoming a father, De'Quan decided to make a change.
That's when he came to the Craven Transitional Living Program. It's funded by a state grant and provides a place where troubled teenage boys have a safe, productive home away from crime. And it's where they learn social, financial and educational skills.
"At the end of the program, they usually end up believing in themselves and realize there's a better life out there for them," says Kristen Tettemer, the program manager. "They just got to put the work in and make the appropriate choices for themselves and they can really have whatever future it is that they want."
With the right structure and support, De'Quan earned his GED, landed a job, and last summer graduated from the program.
Now, he's living on his own and taking classes at a community college. And his troubled past is becoming a distant memory.
"It really does feel good to say I haven't been in trouble in I don't know when," he says. "Or even to actually be able to say, I'm in college! I'm in college!"
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