What is GAP?
The GAP (Gang Alternative Principles) Program seeks to target at-risk youth and also prevent and intervene in gang involvement by providing wrap-around life skills and services to teens in grades 7th-12th. As the largest gang prevention program in Mecklenburg County, GAP has graduated 700 youth since its inception in 2008.
Tell me more about GAP services?
GAP uses an evidence-based curriculum to provide instruction on gang and violence prevention, life skills, leadership development, anger management and substance abuse. The program is based on elements of the US. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Best Practices Gang Model and the city of Los Angeles' 2008 gang initiative.
Who is your target audience?
We originally planned to serve 30 students in grades 7th-10th in our first session, but demand was so high that our first class had 59 students. Students were referred by school counselors, principals, juvenile justice officials, judges, parents and churches. Most are African-American and Latino and referred by Mecklenburg County Juvenile Justice. Quite a few attend GAP as an alternative to detention. Some are referred by concerned adults. Thanks to a new grant from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, we will offer summer sessions AND we will serve females for the first time starting in Summer 2016.
How does the program work logistically?
Students attend an initial information session with a parent/guardian. During school months, they meet half a day on Saturday for 12 weeks from 9:00am-1:00pm. On two Saturdays, they also attend a field trip or community service activity. Sessions are held in the fall and spring semesters. Students are required to wear their GAP t-shirts and sign in and out. They end each session with a hearty meal, basketball and a wrap-up.
During the summer, separate two-week sessions will be held for males and females. They will attend from 10am-3pm for two weeks.
Who are the adult leaders?
We think we have the best staff in town. Our male sessions are led by all-male staff with backgrounds ranging from counselors to police to education to former gang members. Our female sessions will be led by an all-female staff with similar backgrounds.
Who funds this program?
The Spring and Summer sessions are funded by the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. The new Summer sessions will be funded by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Is the gang problem really that bad in Charlotte?
Gang interest and involvement starts young. Black males in grades 8th-10 had the highest number of gang activity. In Mecklenburg County, there are approximately 1,862 documented or suspected members or affiliates comprising approximately 51 gangs and 95 cliques. Of that number, 1,755 are male and 107 female. But note that gang activity can involve three or more youth who function like a clique.
When is the next session?
The Spring 2016 Saturday Sessions will be held February 20 - May 14 (no session the Saturday before Easter). For more info, contact Program Assistant Rashida Waleed or GAP Manager George Wilkerson at 704.372.3742. Or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a referral, click here.
GAP Featured on Channel 14
Grier Heights Shooting Highlights Need for Youth Prevention Programs
CHARLOTTE – The mother of a Charlotte teen shot in the stomach earlier this week in Grier Heights says her son continues to recover.
D'Andre Martin is now listed in good condition, meanwhile the 14-year-old suspect is in custody facing a serious charge.
"I hope he gets punished to the full extent of this crime because he tried to kill my son,” said Monroe. “Fourteen or not I hope he spends a long time in jail.”
Police say the teenager shot Martin as he was skateboarding home. Officers say Martin was an innocent victim who has never been in trouble with the law.
The suspect's name is not being released because he is a minor. He was arrested Thursday and confessed to the shooting. He is charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.
Youth outreach groups say this alarming crime shows the need for more prevention programs in the community.
“Of course this is just heartbreaking,” said George Wilkerson, who runs the FBI honored GAP program. GAP stands for Gang Alternative Principles.
It works with young offenders to help steer them away from a life of crime.
"One of our mantras is stop, think and act. If we can get youth to stop, think and act, then a lot of the times behavior will be different," said Wilkerson.
While the ages of both the victim and suspect are alarming, Wilkerson says the juvenile violence issue is improving in Charlotte.
"In fact, in North Carolina there has been a 15 percent decrease in juvenile complaints, so there is progress ,” said Wilkerson.
While his program serves close to 100 young men a year, he says more needs to be done.
"We should reinforce those youth who are displaying positive behaviors and we should really put our heads together and work to address the challenges and needs of those youth who sometime fall by the wayside," he said.