We prevent youth violence and build youth leadership in California communities. Our goal is to interrupt the cycle of violence on the streets.
When I first moved to Oakland, I'd heard so many bad things about it that it caused me to be afraid. One of the first things I thought about was protection, so I got a gun and a knife. It’s alarming how easy it was for me to get the gun, no questions asked.
I wasn’t really into the Teens On Target program at first, but I decided to join for the food and stipend. At the time, I was having problems at home, so the program became a way of escaping the hurt I often felt. I didn’t have a voice at home, but everyone in the program took an interest in me and wanted to hear what I had to say.
My perspective on the program changed when I did my first presentation at Reach Academy. I presented facts on gang violence and the students were hanging on to my every word. They were able to relate to me because my name is Smooth and I looked like them since I was close to their age. I felt incredible. I finally felt like someone was listening to me. It motivated me want to help other kids. It was then that TNT became home and [TNT staffers] Demetria and Caheri became family. When I was with them, everything else I had going on at home didn’t hurt anymore.
Before TNT, my grades were slipping, I had no direction, no passion. The program pushed me to do more for the community, to set goals for myself. Not only did I graduate at the top of my class, but I was also given the opportunity to speak at graduation.
Even today, I feel Demetria and Caheri pushing and encouraging me when I feel like giving up. They are still my family. Family will always be there, no matter the distance or the time that goes by. Home is where the heart is, and my heart will always be with TNT.