RALEIGH, N.C. — There is growing concern gang activity is on the rise in Wake County schools. An event was held in Raleigh Sunday to help stop the violence and bring students together.
Crossroads Fellowship Church partnered with more than 35 area churches to host the back to school event at Millbrook High School. The idea of "One community, one event, one prayer, one heart, one God" was to promote positive change in schools and bring students together.
"You can reach out to almost anybody from almost any social class. So I think any student can make a difference, if they really believe that they can,” Hannah Hathaway said.
The event comes after a massive brawl at the Triangle Town Center in July. The brawl began on a Saturday evening inside the mall and involved as many as 300 people, police said. A 15-year-old was stabbed, and a police officer injured his leg in the incident, but neither injury was considered serious.
Then earlier this week, a gang related fight broke out at Enloe High School. About 15 students were involved in the altercation outside the school building entryway.
In August, Marvin Connelly Jr., Wake County schools assistant superintendent, said that gang activity is up in the school system. Last year, there were 692 gang incidents, compared with 520 the year before, a 33 percent increase.
The school system has programs to identify and prevent gang activity. Officials said the number of gang-related incidents are up, in part, because the school system is doing a better job of identifying gang activity.
According to a recent study, there are 13 recognized gangs in Wake County, with the Bloods being the most prominent. There are about 2,400 known gang members or associates in the county. Associates are members who might not live in the area, but who have spent considerable time or have been arrested locally.
“As a youth pastor, that breaks my heart to see that because I'm seeing all these students making bad choices. I'm really hoping with 40 plus youth groups and churches coming together that we can start influencing our community,” organizer Andy George said.
Most of the students at Sunday's event are members of their church youth groups.
“The challenge that they are going to be given at the end of this event is to reach out to those kids who are at risk and feel like they have no where to go,” volunteer Mary Wolkomir said.
Organizers say they want the students to know that they are not alone and that they can make a difference by getting together and mentoring other students who may be making bad choices.