On February 5, 2012, I attended the regular meeting of the Shepherd Community Action Council. There were complaints that the young people of Shepherd were out of control. There were fights in the streets and instances of disrespect to adults. Gang signs were appearing in the community and there was talk of gang recruitment taking place.
It was suggested that we needed to organize for dealing with the problems. That night, six members of the Shepherd Community Action Council volunteered to serve on a committee. Malcolm Walker, President of the Shepherd Community Action Council, led the group.
We decided to design a program that would be fun. The program would be filled with enrichment experiences and all the while, self-respect, good citizenship and goal setting for making the most of lives would be emphasized.
We named the program S,T.A.R.S. (SHEPHERD TEACHING ACADEMICS, RESPECT AND SERVICE). Twenty-five middle and high school students, boys and girls were identified to be involved in the pilot program. Some of them were ideal students and some presented serious challenges. We wrote letters to parents of the identified youth inviting them to a meeting that would feature the police officer on the force who is most knowledgeable about gangs and gang activity in Chattanooga and in Shepherd.