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Juveniles in court gang program speak out about changing lives

Photo: FOX 17 News

Davidson County's Juvenile Justice Center becomes like a second home for kids in the Gang Resistance Intervention Program commonly knowns as G.R.I.P.

“The population that we're working with in G.R.I.P have had the door slammed in their face their entire life,” supervisor of the high-risk gang unit Kelly Gray said.

Gray says the program targets juvenile gang members on probation. They spend roughly nine months in the program, working to leave the gang mentality behind for a brighter future.

16-year-old Receme Crutcher is one of those teens.

“When I was real young I used to be a very playful person, but some things happened in my life and it kind of shoved me out, I shut myself out from the world and then I got into a lot of trouble and got hanging around a lot of people I shouldn't have been around,” Crutcher said.

He's already graduated from the first phase of the G.R.I.P. program, called G.A.N.G., or gentlemen and not gangsters. He says at first, he was skeptical and uninterested in it.

“After I got into it I started enjoying going,” Crutcher said. “We were like a family type thing.”

The G.A.N.G. program is led by Bishop Marcus Campbell. He says the main goal is changing mindsets.

“In a couple of classes, we asked the kids ‘What would you like to do in the next 5-10 years?’ A lot of them said ‘I just wanna live to see 21,’” Bishop Campbell said.

One of the kids whose story sticks with him is 17-year-old C.J. Douglas.

“For me it was like watching my mama struggling and my daddy went to jail,” Douglas said.

He joined a gang to try and provide for his family. It eventually landed him in jail and then the G.R.I.P. program. The moment that changed his mind set was at one of the G.A.N.G. meetings.

“It was this one part where they had a casket and they were talking about it and they asked me what you gonna do if your momma see you like that,” Douglas said.

Now, he's about to graduate high school, he’s working, and he’s preparing for a baby of his own.

“Don't judge a book by its cover. These young men have a lot to offer,” Gray said.

For example, she says Crutcher is a talented chef and writer, who may not have discovered his potential without a little help.

“It gave me a different look on life,” Crutcher said.

Now, both he and C.J. want others to know there's hope for a better life.

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