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Second Annual Atlanta Youth Summer Violence Intervention provides hope for juveniles

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- The Project Safe Neighborhoods Credible Messenger Youth Summer Violence Intervention program is back for a second year. Youth mentors and multiple agencies are teaming back up and intervening to get kids back on the right path.

Multiple agencies, including The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia and the Fulton County District Attorney's Office, joined the Southeast Credible Messengers to speak to youth at the Atlanta Police Foundation's At-Promise Center on May 31, 2022. The program was launched last year with 20 youth, and organizers said 32 are participating this year.

One of the many success stories involves Nicholas McDowell, 17, who served time for aggravated assault and other charges. "I was one of those children that, you would tell me something is bad and I had to see for myself that it's bad," he said. "I had to figure out that I had to get my life together and change my life around," he added. This is his second year in the program. "When they told me that I had mentors and all of that, I was happy because I had never had that before, and I had someone to support me."

Art Powell, a mentor and former gang leader, says crime and gang life come with consequences.

"Either you're going to prison or you're going to die," he said. "I was one of those children, you know, I got in trouble at the age of 15 and eventually went to prison and served 11.5 years. I got out and wanted to do something different and mentor and try to help young people avoid making the mistakes I made in my life. I try to encourage them through life skills and character development and give them the understanding of the importance of character."

"That's the whole goal here is to make sure that we create partnerships like this to keep kids from coming into our custody and care," said Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Tyrone Oliver.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis says the program had a nearly 90% success rate last year, with youth getting jobs or furthering their education.

"What we want to drive is the opportunity. We want to drive the engagement and hopefully drive the success of the people who participate in the program," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Ryan Buchanan.

Mentors work with the youth year-round, giving them renewed hope and another chance at life.

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