Youth program focusing on community culture of at-risk teens - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Youth program focusing on community culture of at-risk teens

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -

A troubling common denominator in the majority of crimes committed in Savannah is the age of the suspects.

More often than not, they are young teens. And it’s a trend that has not gone unnoticed by many in the community.

One group is focusing on bringing hope to this crisis, and it isn’t about more police. For them, it’s about a culture that breeds this kind of youth. And because of that, it’s not police who have the power to stop it, it’s the community they are growing up in.

"Kids that are now 12 and 13 are committing crimes that kids at 16 and 17 committed years ago, so the problem hasn't gone away. And they're getting younger, and that's the scary part,” said Edward Chisolm, executive director of Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority.

Chisolm heads up a city-sponsored organization that focuses on reaching young people.

Chisolm doesn't follow the typical line of blame: poverty, unemployment, education.  For him, this is about mom and dad.

"Many of our kids are misguided, and it's up to us as adults to give them the moral guidance and moral foundation,” said Chisolm.

Chisolm points to Ralph Taylor as a success story. Taylor grew up in Savannah, constantly invited down the wrong path. It was the investment of the adults around him that made the difference.  Now, he's a mentor.

"We must invest in the future, and that is in our youth. If we don't, we're through. As a society, we're through,” said Taylor, deputy director of Savannah Sankofa Youth Organization.

Here's why they're concerned.

Last year, about 300 kids between the ages of eight and 16 were arrested. In the first eight months of this year, 182 have already been arrested, and this is in Savannah alone.

"Part of the answer is for the community to rally and to realize that at a young age, that our children get not only a secular education but a moral education,” said Chisolm.

With every generation, fewer young people are spiritual. Chisolm believes that's part of the problem. But faith is only part of the solution. Chisolm asks, what are these kids going home to?

"When people, especially children, are not educated morally, then, as I said, you reap what you sow,” said Chisolm.

The Chatham-Savannah Youth Futures Authority isn't actually the organization that actively mentors young men and women. Chisolm sees his role as more of a researcher, a developer of programs based on changes in youth culture.

Dozens of local programs are glad to have the research he can provide.

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