Hakeem Jackson doesn’t mince words:
Just a couple of years ago I was shooting at people.
He was put on probation two years ago for selling marijuana on the condition that he enroll in school or find a job. A youth worker from Roca reached out and Jackson has been part of the organization’s program to help gang members and other young people at the margins turn their lives around. He’s now part of a work crew at the agency that does landscaping and other projects and is working on getting his high school equivalency diploma.
Mark Culliton, a veteran nonprofit leader, says he was frustrated by what he saw as half-measures in many programs that aim to get former gang members and high-risk young men on track. Help often meant getting them into minimum wage jobs, but with inadequate support to gain the skills or education credentials to move up and earn a family-sustaining income. “We kept trying to give them low-level jobs that they fail out of and then keep the cycle going,” says Culliton.
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