"Don't Shoot" initiative to expand to Trewyn school

By WEEK Producer

January 28, 2013 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 4:20 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Another component could soon be added to Peoria's "Don't Shoot" Initiative.

The anti-crime program, which started last year, takes repeat violent offenders off the street and provides help for those wanting to turn their lives around. Now, organizers are looking at a pilot program which focuses on targeting students at risk for joining gangs.

"This is where they cleaned it up," said Carl Cannon, describing the campus of Trewyn School. "This was Bomb Squad territory. So, if they're gone, let's make sure we clean it all up."

Carl Cannon is talking about the transformation that has taken place at Trewyn School in the past couple years. He says rowdy behavior and foul language no longer run amok and students are now focused on learning. Cannon says that's not enough, now he wants to bring an anti-gang program to the school, which feeds into Manual Academy.

"I know there's gonna be a back-fill," said Cannon. "If we just don't do anything there's still the same issues, poverty, dysfunction. If we see it and don't do something about it shame on us."

Cannon says last September's fatal shooting on Starr Street, which involved several teenagers who were members of a gang, proves that negative forces outside of school influence children. He says identifying at-risk students and working closely with them might eliminate that connection with gangs early on.

"This is a K through 8 building. You got an amazing opportunity to make the new cool now what the old cool was for many kids," said Cannon.

Cannon hopes to begin implementing the program in February. He says with some of the success and growth at schools like Trewyn, time is critical.

Principal Renee Andrews agrees.

"Time is of the essence," said Andrews. "We have to get these kids while we have them. Summer will be here before we know it and the more we can get done before school is out."

Andrews says with the school and families working together, they hope students will choose recreational, employment and educational options over gangs and the streets.

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