National News

Nonprofit uses water sports to prevent youth violence

Posted June 27, 2017 1:33 p.m. EDT

— Youth violence is a very real issue in Nashville, and there's a group working with inner city children to curb the problem.

Nonprofit mentorship program Water Walkers is based in the Edgehill community and caters to children in public housing.

Founder Clint Bandy said his goal is to minister those children, teaching them to dream beyond what's around them using water sports like tubing, surfing and swimming as a tool.

"I think they're starting to dream bigger. Getting them outside the community that they're in just helps (them) see a bigger picture and kind of open up that sense of wonder," Bandy said.

Helping inner city kids has been Bandy's passion for years, so he combined it with water sports to teach teamwork, conflict management , gang prevention and confidence.

"We've just seen their reaction get better whenever there's any kind of violent or aggressive situation. Their education has gotten a lot better," Bandy said.

He said they find tutors to teach the children one-on-one during the school year.

The goal is to prevent them from becoming involved in gangs and youth violence. Just this last week, an 18-year-old man was shot and killed in a drug deal, and a 14-year-old boy died from gunshot wounds while in a car. Metro police charged a 19-year-old man with the boy's death.

Those incidents ring home for staff member Michael Shaw. He said he was shot 10 times in a drive-by last year.

"Going through something like that, really was my first time getting shot. Something I don't want to do or experience in my life," Shaw said. "So I figured by hanging with people and chilling with people, I need to change that. So I started changing the people I chill with."

Shaw said he wants these children learn from his mistakes and think for themselves.

"Everybody's going to have their own opinion. As long as you be you and the best you can be, you shouldn't worry about nothing as long as you keep your mind focused," he said.

Bandy said the teens in the program have the opportunity to teach positive behaviors to the younger children.