Adults, High School Students Work to Solve Gang Problem

By: Brad Broders
By: Brad Broders

Some Belvidere High School students are fed up with gang activity in their hallways, and refuse to stand idle and have it get worse.

"It's not big, but it's a problem in high school. A lot of fights, almost every day is a fight," student Jennifer Leonardo said.

Working to unclench Belvidere's collective fist Saturday was a variety of anti-gang volunteers that exchanged ideas during a Gang Awareness Seminar. The main message: opening up a more peaceful environment won't happen unless adults and kids both open their ears.

"So rather than saying to these gangs, let's say: ‘what do they need, what’s the issue here?’ And then start to listen to and say: ‘how do we work together and build a better community together?’ “ Gary Goldman said.

Belvidere students want to be part of the solution in a group Young Latin Power Through Education. Seeing intimidation and fear around them, the students work with both the school and parents of kids walking down the wrong path.

"I think that a lot of kids are involved in gangs because our parents given up the more attention that we need," Rocio Arenas said.

The student efforts impressed the man responsible for protecting the students: resource officer Alton Parker.

"I wish more students would. By taking that pro-active approach, we are saying, "we're not taking your garbage, take your trash, go somewhere else, don't be here," Parker said.

It’s an aggressive push to push aggressive gang nature out of their school.

Belvidere High School has a zero-tolerance gang policy, including disciplinary action if caught with gang drawings. The school's resource officer attributes some of the recent gang problems based on an influx of students from Chicago's inner city.


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