NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Styrus Daniels was one of close to 100 people to attend a forum Monday night about mental health, education and gang violence in downtown Wilmington.
"I got a lot of young nieces and nephews and I just want a better situation for them growing up in Wilmington," Daniels said.
By the end of the night, he had learned about several programs that he did not know are available in New Hanover County.
"Sometimes there's help out there for you if you just know where to go," he said.
Hosted by New Hanover County, a panel of five experts explained the services they offer to students and families, in hopes of improving the community.
Community Justice Services Program Coordinator Teresa Huffman echoed the example of Daniels. She said the biggest gap in the effort to keep students from turning to gangs is the need to educate families on the professional services offered.
Donna Lynn Pleasants, a Health School Based Licensed Clinical Supervisor said transportation in the Cape Fear area needs to be better, so that families can more easily access the services offered to them.
The amount of students at risk of dropping out is increasing and the resources to save them are decreasing, according to Communities in Schools Cape Fear Program Director Marrio Jeter.
"It's very hard to tell or peg who would be a dropout now, because so many students are at risk," Jeter said.
While county leaders work to improve awareness about the number of programs offered to families, Jeter said it is vital for mothers and fathers to shake off any shame when it comes to asking for help.
"Students are missing out on so much because parents aren't encouraging them to go out and take advantage of these opportunities that are right at their fingertips," he said.
Monday's panel encouraged the audience to volunteer for one of the many organizations around New Hanover County.
The final community conversation about gang violence is scheduled for February 25 at the MLK Center.
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