Forum on Youth Violence Held in Town N Country

03/10/06

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Last night a coalition of groups under the umbrella of the Florida Institute for Community Studies sponsored a Forum on gang Violence in Town n Country.

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Students, teachers and residents of the area as well as representatives of the Hillsborough School Board and Sheriff's Department were in attendance. Only two weeks after the murders of 16 year old Sebastian Luengus and 20 year old Michael Lee Roberts, the meeting proved to be both emotional and inspirational.

John Gravlin, is a teacher at Webb Middle School. He remembers both boys and actually had Sabastian as a student, to whom he spoke to last Satuday night, Not knowing it would be the last time.

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The meeting broke up into smaller groups of adults and teens. For brainstormed on how this trend of violence can be reversed. Much of the discussions centered on the increasing gang presence in Town n Country. The police believe that gang members may have been involved in the double murder. The forum then came together to share what the groups had discussed. The input of the teens proved to be most revealing.

Amanda Aglada a student at Jefferson High School shared that as a member of a family who lives on Social Security, she can understand the appeal gangs have to teens coming from poor or broken homes.

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Lelena Antino also a student at Jefferson spoke of several solutions

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Donald Dowridge, who once was a gang member himself. He is now a motivational speaker working with gang members and youth at risk. Spokefrom experience.

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Dowridge brought his point home with some well needed humor.

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Alayne Unterberger of the Florida Institute for Community Studies shared her concern for the coming summer and need for additional summer programs. She closed the meeting telling attendees there will be additional forums and other activities in the common months

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