The end of the school year is a joyous occasion, not just for teachers looking for a much needed break but also for students ready to let loose. It's an exciting time, however, summer vacation just lends more time for gangs to recruit teens in communities across the country. Students are approached and repeatedly pressured into becoming members of local gangs. Some succumb to the pressure while others fight to find a way to avoid the ordeal as best they can. A few teens in LaGrange, Georgia decided they would avoid gang activity as much as they could by asking for jobs. Dylik, Dennis, Deion and Jalen ages 13 and 14 took their request for a job to Zsa Zsa Heard, head of the LaGrange Housing Authority. Heard was surprised by their interest in finding work. This wasn't their first time asking. They also inquired during their Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. Heard didn't understand at first why they would request jobs on their break. This time around, she asked them why and their response shocked her. They informed her that they wanted to stay away from gangs who continuously approached them. Heard hired them on the spot. The summer job has paid off and even sparked the interest in one of them to consider a career raising livestock. The teens worked hard and were willing to do whatever they were asked to do. After sharing their story on her Facebook page, she received an overwhelming positive. I want Facebook to empower these young men they walked into my office today and asked for a job. I said why do you want a job? They said so we want get in trouble and we do not want to be in a gang! I said have people approached you about being in a gang they said yes'mam! I hired them on the spot! The streets will not have our children! #ILOVELHACHILDREN "If they feel that they’re valuable, and if we show them how important they are, then we don’t risk losing them,” Heard told 11Alive News. "I don’t want them to seek the love and attention from the negative. I want them to find their value in other things." Their tasks range from maintaining the community garden and chicken coup or making deliveries. Heard says they are compensated with prepaid cards. As the start of the school year approaches, Heard has added the young men to a leadership and mentoring program that will chart their progress. As for their jobs? Heard says they can work for as long as they want to.
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