CLEVELAND -- A string of violent crimes involving Cleveland youth in recent weeks prompted several community leaders to come together Saturday to talk about ways to keep local youth on the right track.
The event was organized by the Re-entry Alumni Association and Right Track Youth Achievement and held at the historic Greater Friendship Baptist Church.
The group is trying to have a positive impact. They admit there aren't any easy answers,but that isn't stopping them from trying at all.
Three days ago, a 16-year-old boy was shot multiple times and died on Cleveland's west side. This, just one example of recent deadly violence in Cleveland neighborhoods.
Saturday afternoon community leaders from local churches, the court system and former inmates held a discussion on youth violence. They talked about ways to steer youth away from gangs, drugs and violence.
Guest speakers stressed that an impactful message of peace has to reach youth by the age of 16 for it to be effective.
Speakers said young people must find ways to stay busy. They can do this by taking advantage of local recreation centers, the boys and girls club and similar places.
"We just want to show that there are some different choices they can make and maybe if we all sit down, maybe we can help figure out some of the reasons people are doing some of the things that they're doing, and maybe we can prevent the next person or next generation from doing it," said Seti Richardson with the Re-entry Alumni Association.
Those on the panel said Cleveland's youth need to know that the pattern of violence, even by their own relatives, can stop with them.
"The main thing is you have a choice and just because you're father does it, because your uncle does it, because your brother does it, doesn't mean you have to do it. You have the choice to do what you want to do," said James Robinson with Re-entry Alumni Association.
A man attending the panel, Jimmy Harris, spent time in prison as a youth. Now, he's involved in keeping youth busy.
He says the key to a peaceful and meaningful life is finding engaging activities you like.
"I teach training and boxing and I teach music. Any of us can help a young person. I'm there for them," Harris said.