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Student counters violence with 'Campaign for Peace'

By Greg Gelpi

While some are talking, one student is taking action to stop the violence.

After hearing plans to combat gangs and provide recreation for teens by politicians and other officials, a Forest Park High School student is stepping up with his own plan, a plan he is putting into action.

Touched by the death of his classmate and close friend Krystal Williams, Christopher Tucker, 18, has developed a comprehensive plan to reverse the recent trend in violence through his "Campaign for Peace."

"It's time for a change in our community," he said. "I don't want to live in fear anymore."

Tucker wrote the proposal, established a committee to see the proposal through and is seeking funding to put the proposal into action. Although he is graduating, he is bringing his proposal to the Clayton County Board of Education, Clayton County Board of Commissioners and other government agencies, so that his plan for peace will be in place after he leaves school.

The proposal includes a month by month plan for bringing about peace. The schedule includes a series of activities to keep teens off the streets and out of trouble.

Two Clayton teens were killed during one April weekend while they attended parties, including Williams. Williams' death hit Tucker hard and drove him to action to prevent further violence.

"I feel like it's my responsibility now," Tucker said. "I have to let (Williams) know that I love her."

The program will also include "empowerment seminars," community service and sessions called "Reach Out and Touch Somebody," which will connect more popular students with those who are less popular in an effort to unite school communities.

"This is not foolproof," Tucker said. "We're also going to add stuff to it, tweak some things."

The plans put forth by officials have yet to take root and have yet to work, he said.

"My peers respect me very much," Tucker said. "Not only do they respect me, they respect my thought process. The youth is where it starts."

His counselor Katrina Lewis, who has been working with Tucker on the campaign, called him a "go-getter."

"He's one of our all-around students and rather popular," Lewis said.

His campaign is a plan to "divert" teens from gangs and arguments into more productive activities, she said.

While officials are trying to solve the problems of the youth, Tucker is an example of a youth trying to solve the problem, she said. Being close to the problem, he is more aware of the problem and as a youth his message may reach more of his peers.

"They are more apt to be cooperative with each other rather than feeling like they are being dictated to by adults," Lewis said. "A lot of these kids are angry that there haven't been any preventive actions taken (by officials)."

Turner's proposal comes days after members of the Clayton County religious community held a public meeting along with law enforcement and elected officials to address the growing problem of gang activity.

Officials announced a number of measures, including the use of resources from the FBI, GBI and ATF, in countering the recent rise in gang violence.