LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- They are called the “invisible kids” - children who have not been physically hurt by gun violence, but emotionally wounded.
Now, there is a new effort to help them, led by community activist Christopher 2X and Stevonte Wood, who was once traumatized by violence himself.
It happened in 2009, when Wood was 13 years old.
“My mother was shot in the mouth, and my brother was shot 5 times in the back,” Wood told WDRB News.
The impact of the violence lasted long after the crime tape came down.
“I slowly just started giving up,” he said. “I didn't care about school, didn't care about friends, didn’t care about how I was treating people.”
Wood said counseling and education helped him rebuild his life. He's now a college graduate, and wants to pass on what he has learned.
“It was like ‘OK, do I want to retaliate?’ No. Because I want to be someone that people in my community can look up to and relate to,” said Wood.
Christopher 2X formed a new organization called The Peace Centered Alliance to launch the project. Over the next few months, it plans to identify kids traumatized by violence, and provide a road map to resources.
“Those are the children that, unfortunately, have to deal with stray rounds coming through their houses,” said 2X.
The crisis became more real earlier this month when the home of 2X's own daughter and grandchildren was sprayed by gunfire.
“Needless to say, it was devastating,” he said.
2X said the classroom is key to successfully overcoming the violence.
“I know no other way but to do it through education right now. I've seen everything, but education is the only thing we can embrace that doesn't cost a lot for us to make a real difference.”
Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis said many of these children live in conditions he described as “a war zone.” He said it is critical that schools provide the best emotional and academic support.
“The difference between getting a great education and not can be the difference between life and death,” said Lewis.
District 4 Metro Council member Barbara Sexton Smith said she is exploring ways to help families relocate after their homes are hit by gunfire.
“I want the parents and/or guardians who are responsible for those children to have the opportunity to immediately relocate those children out of harm’s way, and get the children into a safe and comfortable environment,” said Smith.
Wood said he wants others to understand the lessons he learned about breaking the cycle of violence.
“Because once I learned to critically think, I thought twice before I made any decisions,” he said.
The project launches next year, and 2X said he hopes to issue a report by next fall.
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