JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Community activists from around country are in Jacksonville this week to discuss ways to reduce crime in black communities at the 29th National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community.
"My goal today is to save at bare minimum at least one black male's life," said Darren Gardner, who grew up in the project of Lake Wales, Fla., and knows the problem first hand.
Now a graduate of Edward Waters College and director of the Black Male College Explorer Program," Gardner is hoping to help other kids who are in the same situation he grew up with.
"Right now we glorify the hood; we glorify being from the projects. But if we can get the community to not continue to glorify that fact, then we will be a lot better in the black community," said Gardner
Gardner says the problem violence is praised in the community...
"If you go downtown and say you murdered, like, three people, or that boy murdered, like, three folks... you know you get accolades -- something called 'street credential,'" Gardner said.
Another group at the conference in the Florida Youth Challenge Academy, where young people live at the academy while attend classes to earn a high school diploma.
Eighteen-year-old Dealba, who dropped out in the ninth grade, described what it was like before he found assistance with the program
Dealba, Florida Youth Challenge Academy
"Just being out there and doing the stuff that I was, it wasn't good," Dealba said. "I've been into fights. I've been to jail."
Now he's on his way to study business in college.
Another teen in the program grew up in a bad neighborhood. His mother is a recovering drug addict.
"Before I came here I was on the streets every day -- me and my brother," Edenfield said.
Now he's on track to graduate from high school and go into the Army.
"I'm proud that I changed my life. I don't like being where I used to be at," Edenfield said.
It's programs like these the conference hopes will make a difference in the community and change the statistics in rough neighborhoods
The conference began Wednesday and continues through 11 p.m. Friday at the Hyatt Hotel downtown. Adults and teens are encouraged to attend.
For more information on the event and scheduling, visit PreventBlackCrime.com.
Copyright 2014 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.