Back to School Bash hopes to steer west Louisville kids away from violence

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – As local kids are heading back to class this week, a Louisville research center is trying to put a dent in youth violence statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 young people die by homicide in the U.S. each and every day.

It's was a hot August Sunday, but Luther Brown made it a point to be part of a Back to School Bash put on by the Louisville Youth Violence Prevention Research Center. His goal is to reach as many families as possible by handing out guns locks. Brown lost his grandson, eight-year-old Andre O'Neal, two years ago.

“My grandson was shot and killed at a babysitter’s house. Man said he had barbecue sauce on his hand and dropped the gun,” Brown said.

In west Louisville, where crime scenes involving teens and young people are far too frequent, scenes like Sunday’s with food, inflatable slides and cornhole at Central High School could be the key to change.

"This is really about community building so how do we get people engaged in the conversation because we've been having the wrong conversation about youth violence for so long,” said Monica Wendel, Youth Violence Prevention Research Center Principal Investigator. “The conversation is how do we come around kids and families , and adults and provide the resources and support and equity … to then give them equal opportunities so that violence isn’t their only choice, where selling drugs isn't their only choice.”

It's here where west Louisville products of success are trying to reach young kids with their stories, like NBA star Rajon Rondo.

“When I was growing up a couple blocks from here a lot of people wanted to see me do well. There were a lot of drugs and other things in my neighborhood but for the most part but I had a great mother who raised me well,” Rondo said.

For many of these kids, their goals are already big and their hearts are in the right places.

“I'm looking forward to going to college and playing football … Because it’s my goal to make my father proud," incoming fourth-grader Jayden Augustus said. 

Keeping them on the right path is part of this mission.

“We have to address this in a much different way than in the way that we have before … I'm praying that I won’t stop until the breath leaves my body,” Brown said.

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