RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – Big H.O.M.I.E.S. a Portsmouth community outreach program, was recognized by the Virginia General Assembly Feb. 20 for the efforts in ending youth gun violence.

Del. Don Scott and state Sen. Louise Lucas introduced Big H.O.M.I.E.S. (Heroes of Minority in Every Society) and had them stand before the General Assembly to receive a round of applause for their contributions for safety.

Big H.O.M.I.E.S. took 17 kids to Richmond on President’s Day for an opportunity to speak with several delegates, some who have had a hand in providing funding for the group.

The kids held a roundtable discussion with Dels. Jeff Bourne, Lamont Bagby, Dan Helmer and Luke Torian. They talked about several topics, but Big H.O.M.I.E.S. co-founder and president Eugene Swinson said the most impressive moment came when they were asked why they loved the group.

“One of the kids was like, it helps with his anxiety,” Swinson said. “A little girl said it helps her explore. Of course, somebody said it gets them out of their neighborhood, like they get a chance to go to different places that they probably wouldn’t normally go on their own.”

Swinson said that moment meant a lot to him because he didn’t know the kids felt so deeply about the program.

“Because that’s something I’ve never asked them. I’m there with them all the time and sometimes you’re in a situation where you think you’re doing good, but you don’t really know unless the person tells you.”

The kids’ answers spurred Bourne to say why groups like Big Homies are important.

“Mental health is a big deal, especially in a community where people look like a lot of us in here,” Bourne said. “And then third, and I think this is one of the most important, the exploration. Getting exposure to different things that you might not otherwise get if you weren’t part of the Big H.O.M.I.E.S. program.”

Swinson said the field trip was important for various reasons.

“One, of course to get out of the neighborhood,” Swinson said, “but the second part is so they could kind of see where some of the laws are made. The conversation we had before we went was how they see these places in the books, in some of their books at school, but to actually go there – it was a good experience.”

The kids on the trip came from Swanson Homes, a neighborhood Big H.O.M.I.E.S. has serviced for two years. Swinson said seeing them articulate their thoughts with lawmakers showed his how much they’ve changed from the first time he met them.

“When we first got out there it wasn’t like that,” Swinson said. “The kids were kind of rough. The days used to be kind of stressful so … I was really proud of them.”

The next step for the group will lead them in April to Washington D.C., where they will bring around 20 kids to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.