National News

Mother-Daughter Lock-In Aims to protect youth from violence

Posted June 11, 2018 10:47 p.m. EDT

— The girls came out with sleeping bags, pillows and their mothers close by for a night of education against youth violence.

Philana Swann brought all three of her daughters.

"I want them to see that I'm invested in them and invested in the other young ladies too," Swann said. "Sometimes there are parents out here that might not do better because they don't know better, but to be educated on the things that are going on in our community I think is very important," she added.

The lock-in event called "Sisters of Tomorrow" exposes the girls to better role models today. Guest speakers, celebrities and Atlanta public officials spent the night offering words of wisdom and motivational speeches hoping to save the girls, ages 8 to 16, from going down the wrong path.

"Be the brave one and be the one that's going to stand up for the right thing to," Dr. Sonya Young told the group. Young, an Atlanta business leader, is the wife of Walter Young and sister-in-law to former Ambassador Andrew Young. She shared with the girl's her story of survival and lessons learned after being assaulted and car-jacked by an Atlanta teen several weeks ago.

"What happened to me is not as important, but it is important to keep our community loving and safe," Young told the girls and mothers.

"The street gangs out there, they're recruiting. We're recruiting tonight also," said Bruce Griggs, the founder of Operation Correct Start - Street Academy.

Griggs is a Fulton County juvenile probation officer by day who spends countless hours working on programs to combat youth violence. Griggs and Atlanta radio personality Greg Street run the Street Academy year round. It's been in operation since 1994. The group hosts a similar lock-in for boys.

Griggs said he's not desensitized to the senseless deaths he sees in

Atlanta's youth. They're heartbreaking to him.

*I've been preaching this for 20 years," Griggs said. People say, 'we don't have a gang problem in Atlanta. We don't have a violence problem with youth in Atlanta.' Now, it's gotten out of hand.

It's almost like we need to order 25-thousand bullet-proof vests, in extra-small children's sizes to make it through the summer. If we don't do that, we've got to offer something else. I'm trying to offer something else."

He says he's lost dozens of teens to violence over the years at work. He won't stop working to show children them a better way.