HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – A group of Hampton students is working to take back the community.
For 12 weeks, a group of students will meet daily at the Mary W. Jackson Center for the Hopeful Hampton Ambassador program.
The Hampton’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Opportunities created the program to help give students a voice after a deadly shooting near the office on County Street near Hope Street.
The program accepted 26 high school students to be part of the change; they are paid for their work.
Isabella McMillian, a high school senior, is an aspiring civil rights attorney with dreams of becoming a Supreme Court justice.
“I feel I was put on this earth to make change,” McMillian said.
She said the group looks forward to continuing connections with law enforcement, educators and the community.
“Teens do care about what’s happening,” McMillian said. “We’re not just on our phones [or] on social media. We’re not all into the social media trends. We’re listening and we’re trying to make change and what we hope to accomplish here is engagement.”
The city of Hampton is seeing a spike in gun violence this year.
“It really hurts to see another person, shot and killed for no reason, senseless violence,” said Jeremiah Smith, a high school sophomore.
Latiesha Handie, executive director of Hampton’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Opportunities, believes the shootings are a result of a hopelessness.
“We see a lot and we hear a lot. We’re voicing our opinions when we’re here at Hopeful Hampton,” McMillian said. “We’re listening and we’re trying to make change. What we hope to accomplish here is engagement.”
Former Hampton police officer and school resource officer John Davis Jr. is leading the program. Davis is now the Hampton Office of Young Adult Opportunities community engagement supervisor.
“When we deal with young people (it is a very vulnerable age), they are moldable,” Davis said. “They are shapeable. When it comes down to it, we have to pour as much into them as possible.”
Every day, the group starts off with mindfulness activities to help them deal with conflict or trauma.
“I just want to make a change and know what’s right,” said Asya Johnson, a senior at Hampton High School and a basketball standout. “Yes, I’m going to make mistakes, but I’m learning at the end of the day.”
The groups work out together, they practice team building activities then discuss improvements for the city and the country.
“We need to work on gun control,” Smith said.
The students are paid $100 each week for committing to the program.
“Many of us are here because we want to be here, it’s not by force,” McMillian said. “None of us are here by force. We come here every day with the hope of contributing something to this program.”
The students just want to feel their concerns are heard. The groups will continue to meet at the Mary W. Jackson Center in Hampton until June.
“I’ve very proud of my friends, all of the new people I met,” Smith said. “That we can change the community.”
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