GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - After a shooting in Gulfport on Thursday involving juveniles, one local organization is doing everything they can to be a positive influence on the city's youth.
The Boys and Girls Club at the Forest Heights Center say they try to teach kids lessons on the front-end that will help them make good decisions both inside and outside of the center.
Monday through Friday, there's always something going on for kids at the Boys and Girls Club in Gulfport.
According to the organization's program director Akini Cyrus, after-school hours are a very critical time frame for youth.
"There's always programs such as the Boys and Girls Club available to try to meet that time frame," said Cyrus. "So that they are not at home and potentially trying to experiment with other options that you yourself as a parent might not want them to be engaged in."
Ninth grader Jayla Pleasant has been going to the Boys and Girls Club since second grade.
"There's different stuff that we do here, like the teen center, and the little kids got their thing going on," said Pleasant. "It's a good environment."
Pleasant said the club offers her tutoring and programs where she's learned the importance of good health and planning for the future
The job fair program is where she learned what her career path will be.
"It let me know what I want to do," said Pleasant. "I want to be a teacher because I see a lot of kids around here, and me coming to the Boys and Girls Club just showed me how much I want to be a teacher."
Officials said all kids in the program take part in community service. Teen instructor Kristopher Riley said, as a child, taking part in activities like that in the club kept him in the right direction. It's why he tries to return the favor by helping members today.
"You want to be able to get out here and have a job and graduate and have your own family," said Riley. "And hopefully we are instilling these values with our teens here in Gulfport."
The Boys and Girls Club will hold Passport to Manhood, an event for young men on Saturday, April 30, where young men are invited to learn life lessons from men who share their own experiences and accomplishments. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Forest Heights Center and is open to sixth graders and up.