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Lessons About Gang Life Before It's Too Late

10:22 AM, Feb 16, 2005   |    comments
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Grand Rapids - When they recruit members gang leaders promise comraderie, protection and excitement. But Adelante High School Principal Rosa Fraga says the reality is more like violence, pain, prison and death. And that is what she says her students will hear during a Violence Prevention and Education Presentation at the school on Wednesday. "We want to make sure they have the information about what the reality of gang membership is before they even think about wanting to join a gang for campanionship, cameraderie or to belong," she says. Grand Valley State University professor James Houston says there are at least a half dozen gangs operating and recruiting new members in West Michigan. "We know there are Vice Lords," he says. "We know there are Gangster Deciples, Black Gangster Deciples, Latin Kings, MS-13´s. All of those and more". Professor Houston says when the economy is down and factories close more families sink into poverty and disfunction. He says that´s when gang membership goes up. "They join gangs to have a source of income," he says. "In order to have a sense of belonging. They join gangs to have a sense of safty and protection. If they don´t have any of those things the gang steps in to fill a valuable purpose." But Adelante High Scool principal Rosa Fraga says the children should not be fooled. She has invited representatives from the police, prisons, even a former gang leader to meet students and discuss the violence and consequences of gang life. "What happens when you have to go to court," she says. "When you are in the jail system. What happens to families. This is our first attempt to make it real and bring it to the students". "It may provide an opportunity for them to hear something they haven´t heard before," says Professor Houston. "Thats what I think is important. They need to hear being in a gang is a dead end." This weekend a former student at Adelante High School was shot and killed in a double murder in Grand Rapids. The Violence Prevention Presentation was planned at the school long before, but the principal says the killing just reinforces her concerns about gang activity and how it may affect the lives of the young people at the school.

Phil Dawson

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