BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Malik Haynes has big dreams and bright future.
"I want to go to college at Tuskegee University and study engineering and construction,” said the seventh-grader, who attends Hudson K-8 School.
Even at 13, Haynes knows his future is based on his right now.
“I’m hearing how kids are dropping out buying guns and doing drugs,” said Haynes. “I have had bad friends, but they are still my friends. I don’t hang around them as much as I do with the friends who are doing well. So, I continue to think positive and do positive things.”
That positivity comes from his mentoring group, Growing Kings.
For an hour a week, mentors are at Hudson K-8 school providing support. They’re also tackling what has become a big problem in Birmingham - gun violence.
"We’ve had as several young men that came through our program and live in the communities in Birmingham that we know experience the highest rate of violence as well as experience many different forms of trauma,” said Growing Kings Advocacy Director Larry Ferguson.
The organization’s goal is to try and prevent the trauma before it ever happens. They hope to do that through a recently awarded grant. Growing Kings received $100,000 from Everytown’s Gun Safety Support Fund. This is part of the Everytown’s commitment to reduce gun violence in neighborhoods by supporting community-based organizations that are advancing effective, local solutions to gun violence.
“What we hope to do is increase our advocacy efforts as well as our research to understand the trauma and the needs of the youth in our community, mainly our young boys and young men as you know they are very much affected by the trauma as well as the gun issues in Birmingham,” said Ferguson. “So, our goal is to be able to provide intervention strategies through mentoring and to provide these boys with a sense of hope and encouragement in their lives."
“It has helped me learn how to treat women, stay away from gun violence and bad stuff in life and to stay in school and make good grades and be great,” said Haynes.
Growing kings impacts more than 500 young men every week of the school year, and they participate in hours of comprehensive mentoring and enrichment sessions. To find out more about Growing Kings visit their HERE.