Local organization hoping to connect with youth, change Gastonia neighborhood

They have plans to mentor students.
With the start of the new school year, there is a local organization working to change the narrative of a neighborhood.
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 9:42 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - With the start of the new school year, there is a local organization working to change the narrative of a neighborhood.

Volunteers with the 101 Black Men for Highland were at Woodhill Elementary School on Wednesday, bright and early to welcome students back for the first day of classes.

“Pretty much greeted the kids, the parents, waved at the parents let them know, you know 101 guys from Highland here, and the kids pretty much were really accepting of us,” said Finland Fair with 101 Black Men for Highland.

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The school is located in the Highland area of Gastonia. In recent months, that area has had its share of crime -- from multiple shootings to at least two murders.

“Seeing it happen in the community is...basically it hurts, because I love the community. I love the people in the community,” Fair said.

They have plans to mentor students.

“Being in the school to do more of a mentoring program, lunch buddies, and more of a big brother program for us to try to be there for the kids and the families and try to explain to the parents we’re here for them with anything,” he said. “Maybe some quality time away from the kids and, you know, us, you know, doing some programs with them and doing some job training programs for the older kids. The ones that are thinking about going to college or the ones that are older trying to get a job. We’re doing some job training programs. We just have a lot of different avenues of programs that we can try to offer.”

The group is hoping by building a connection at the start of the school year, they can mentor the kids and help stop the crime before it knocks at their door.

“Trying to grab them early. And you know, once you get to them early, you can try to instill something in them. A certain form of respect,” Fair said.

This weekend, the group will also lead a walk through the Highland neighborhood and end with a block party at the Erwin Center in Gastonia. There will be music and free food for the community.

“Importance of us being here in the community in here at the school is because, to be honest, there’s a lack of Black men in the school system and if we can get in in any form to show a positive role model,” Fair said.

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