Save Our Students tried to reach out to the community through an event targeted to younger kids on Sunday. (WRDW-TV / March 4, 2012)
News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, March 4, 2012
HEPHZIBAH, Ga. -- It's been almost a year since a teen was shot and killed while working a birthday party at the Belair Conference Center in Columbia County.
Since then, his aunt, Annetta Mills, has teamed up with other families who may have been affected by violence to form the group Save Our Students. On Sunday, they were out today trying to do just that.
SOS kicked off a new outreach program at Castle Pines Mobile Home Park. It's part of an initiative they are taking throughout the area to stop the violence.
Cotton candy, popcorn and snow cones may seem like just a food, but at Sunday's event, they came with an important message.
"Cotton candy belongs in your hands, toys belong in your hands, not guns, not drugs. Don't make the bad decisions because it's gonna damage the community," said Jordan Johnson, SOS president at Cross Creek High School.
A community Save Our Students is trying to take back and they kicked off a new program with a kids' day.
"It's been lots of fun, said seventh grader Haley Glenn. "It's something new to me."
They jumped rope, danced and even got a visit from Elmo, but it wasn't all fun and games. They also sat down and listened to the stories of families affected by violence.
Gaye Vause lost her niece to violence.
"We just have to say it to them, you have got to stay on the right track," she said. "You have got to stand up, you've got to speak out and stay away from these sort of things because you can get so caught up in it that you don't know how to get out."
Vause's niece Devon Grace was only 22 years old when she was murdered.
"She's not as young as these children are today, but this is the ending result if you don't stop and get started early on with these children," she said.
In two weeks, SOS will be starting a mentoring and tutoring program two days a week.
"We will be on scene helping children with their homework, getting some help for moms, talked to Mary Kay about coming out and doing facials," said Founder Annetta Mills. "We're just gonna be here for them."
And Castle Pines is just the beginning. Rudolph Brown is in the eighth grade. He is involved with SOS and speaks to kids at events like the one today. He said violence is everywhere, so SOS needs to be there as well.
"We are trying to hit everywhere. We want to hit out here in Hephzibah, we want to go in Richmond County, Columbia County, Aiken County. There's a need everywhere. It's not in just one place. There's a need everywhere," he said.
A need that SOS members say they hope to fill. And they are working to spread their message all over the area. Next weekend they are starting SOS in AIken. On Saturday they are having a bullying seminar at the Corinth Baptist Church in New Ellenton from noon to 3 p.m.