KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Having somewhere to go that is safe and is something the students at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA look forward to every weekday.
It’s the result of a partnership set up by the Save Our Sons initiative established by Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero in 2013, but it really took off after the Stop the Violence community forum.
Kevin Perry and Tatia Harris recently started heading up Save Our Sons.
“We’re definitely seeing lives changed. We’re seeing a spark of excitement because of the revitalization efforts in our community,” Perry said.
Save our Sons helped facilitate some pilot programs in 2016 that are making a difference. One, the Safe Haven gym at Cal Johnson Rec Center, hosted basketball games and had guest speakers over the summer. You could find between 40 and 80 kids there on any given day.
A Knoxville police officer hired to keep the kids safe would up shooting some hoops with them. He wasn’t alone. The City of Knoxville’s Senior Director of Community Affairs Dr. Avice Evans Reid says the new relationships are having a ripple effect in the community.
“The officers who participated in that had nothing but positive to say about the way the young people and their parents interact with them when they’re not at the Safe Haven gym,” she said.
Another pilot project linked 40 students in the Y’s after school program with an organization called Courage Incorporated. It held workshops that taught kids ways to cope in tough times without using violence.
More online: Save Our Sons
“The participants were able to identify triggers, things that made them unhappy or angry and then they were given solutions to work on those and then showing overall improvement in their behavior, in their outlook, and that just builds on their opportunity for success,” Tatia Harris explained.
Save Our Sons plans to continue its support of the projects that are working and add new ones that are needed, thanks in part to a new state grant providing $200,000 a year for three years, and continued support they’ve received, especially over the past year.
“There are people who have never really gotten engaged but are now saying, ‘What can we do?'” Dr. Reid says with a smile.