Concerned citizens are making a game plan to stop the violence in Opelika. The organizers want to inspire youngsters in the community to have a "DREAAM."
Three people have been murdered in Opelika this year. Now teachers, preachers, and those who have seen violence firsthand are banding together to form a task force to keep kids on the right path.
DREAAM stands for Direct Responsibility of Educating African-American Males, and as a teacher, Frankie Bell says she's tired of watching her students choose street life over their education.
Bell is doing a dissertation on dropouts and has found that "if we can catch them in the 8th grade as they transition to 9th grade, we can save them. And I began to see a pattern of a group no one ever talked to about education, no one ever gave another outlet, and I began to watch them fade away. I want to let people know that the trigger doesn't start when they pull it. The trigger starts when they are giving up hope."
Tyanna Edwards' brother was murdered in Opelika 19 years ago. Now she says, "I have a son myself, and sometimes I feel him slipping and going down the wrong path, and I have to get at him. I would just like to tell them they just need to trust in God and get themselves together, get in school, whatever they want to do with their life because life is too short out here."
DeAndre Jones agrees. As a college student he believes more kids would say no to violence if they had positive male influences. "In the future you have more going for yourself than being in the streets," he says. "Nothing good is in the streets."
Janataka Holmes' brother is serving a prison sentence for murder, and she has turned to prayer to help her influence others. "You just lose on both sides," she says, "whether it's the victim or the suspect. Most of us know each other, everybody that's running into these violent situations."
Hundreds of citizens came to a prayer vigil last week to support the cause. Up next is a street revival and basketball tournament along with the launching of DREAAM's educational program.
New Opelika Police Chief John McEachern says he also has plans to lower the crime rate. He will be sworn in Monday morning at 9 a.m.