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  • Writer's pictureBoys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana

Louisville-led program at Boys and Girls Club helping children cope with gun violence

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville program is focusing on violence prevention by involving youth.

The Newburg Boys and Girls Club has been hosting the Purpose Project, a program that teaches youth how to make productive choices and avoid violence, since last month. It engages children in activities that process their feelings about gun violence, mental health, money management and decision making.

Reell Clark, 12, had been grieving after loved ones had died from gun violence. She still carries a photo of two of the people she has lost to violence.

"It took me a while to grieve with it and cope with it, but after getting out of my comfort zone and being out in the open, and being here at the Boys and Girls Club made me feel like 'oh okay, it's going to be okay,'" Clark said.

Kennina Porter co-founded the More Movement Crew, which leads the Purpose Project. The partnership with the Boys and Girls Club is the first in-person cohort the group has led.

"We recognized students didn't fully understand their potential, there are programs designed to empower students, there are programs designed to help them with leadership but there's not a program designed to help them find what their purpose is," Porter said.

Marvia Presley, unit director of Newburg Boys and Girls Club, said children that attend the program have all been affected by violence in some capacity. Presley said the conversations help youth build skills for being able to express their emotions wisely.

"These conversations are absolutely vital, we're noticing especially in the club that a lot of our kids don't know how to have a good conversation especially when it comes to conflict," Presley said. "It's either they erupt, they stuff it and don't say anything at all."

The program allows participants to share how they feel, an important part of being able to manage emotions responsibly, according to Presley.

"They talk about the loss, they cry, but we have also created a safe space for them to be able to do that," Presley said. "This program follows our mission to create productive, responsible and caring citizens."

The Purpose Project is funded by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer's Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative.

"For our city to understand that there is that need, people say 'their parents should do that,' but what we find is if people don't have that skill, it can't be done," Presley said. "So you invest into organizations that can give that skill, and then you'll see kids walk away more empowered to do what needs to be done."

The Purpose Project has helped Clark feel like she belongs.

"It helps you deal with mental health and anxiety," Clark said. "Coping and feeling like you don't belong is something that no 10 to 12-year-old, 6 to 9-year-old, teenager, not even an adult, should feel."

Although the Purpose Project is scheduled to end in July at the Newburg Boys and Girls Club, Porter hopes to have fall programming.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana provides programming for children during summer weekdays. To learn more about the program, click here or call (502) 585-5437.

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