Youth organizations work to disrupt Fort Myers’ cycle of violence
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Local youth organizations are working to break the viscous cycle of violence, which once again reared its ugly head Sunday when 18-year-old Lawrence Lockley was gunned down in front of a Dunbar home.
At the Boys and Girls Club and the Stars Complex, it isn’t difficult to find a child who knew Lockley, a student just starting his final year at Dunbar High School.
“He was in one of my classes actually and he was a senior and it is pretty hard,” said Wesley Sauvur.
The Lee County school district placed counselors in Dunbar High School for students and staff who needed to speak about the loss of Lockley, who was remembered as a kid full of life and joy.
But it’s the work that happens after school hours, that Shannon Lane of the Boys and Girls Club of Lee County hopes will steer children away from crime and gun violence.
“When they are at the club that is when we are driving them to the great future, driving them through programs that increase their likelihood to graduate from high school, live a healthy lifestyle and be a connected citizen,” Lane said. “It is vital that these kids are doing something productive during those hours.”
The goal is to show children alternatives that will push them in positive directions. But one problem is that so many youth programs face cuts in funding from local entities and the state.
The importance of these organizations could not have been clearer than the days following the mass shooting outside a Fort Myers nightclub, Lane said.
“With that Club Blu shooting, the next day when we wanted to talk about it with the children — give them a safe place to share their emotions — we asked ‘Who knows someone that was affected by that?’ and at one of our clubs every single child raised their hand,” Lane said.
Stephen Smith, a senior Lehigh Senior High School and volunteer at BGCLC, said he has seen other kids become “immune” to violence and the loss of life. But he believes children can be averted and the cycle of violence can be stopped… it’s just going to take some time and and effort.
“It is not just something that happens over night,” he said. “It is something that you have to work on.”