Community activists meet in Harrisburg to nudge kids toward productive path

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It’s summer break for Harrisburg students, and several groups are working to make sure it’s a productive and safe few months.

Saturday, those groups gathered to meet with Midstate kids and to urge them toward a productive path.  At the Boys and Girls Club in Harrisburg, basketball is pretty common. But community activists still want to see more of it.

Ralph Rodriguez, one of those activists, grew up in the city. Now he’s trying to be the father he didn’t have, trying to give his kids a leg up.  “Well, I definitely do,” he said. “No trying about it. I instill it on them every day, you know, be persistent, be positive, keep that good energy about you.”

Rodriguez was named an Outstanding Single Father for 2015 at Saturday’s Peace Jam at the community gym.  “We wanted to start the summer off with a day of peace,” said Nathan Waters, who organized Peace Jam.

The main event was a youth forum for kids to talk to city leaders, including the police chief.  “So often we have adults being out front, telling kids what they need to do and what we want to do today, and let’s hear from the kids,” Waters said.

Outside after the forum, kids danced to music with a special guest: Elmo.  “Because once they get to a certain age, it’s kind of hard to reach them,” said Kevin Dolphin, founder of Breaking the Chainz. His group reaches out to at-risk populations and those already entrenched in the criminal justice system.

Dolphin also spoke during the forum, answering questions directly from the youth panel. The newest mascot for the groups made his debut Saturday. His name is Kool Zone, with the goal of teaching kids it’s cool to lead safe, healthy lives.

“If I can give to them a positive input, then maybe they’ll take that and nourish it, and they’ll give it to another youth,” said Unique Musa, another community leader who came to the Peace Jam.  After all, it takes a village to raise a child.  “I feel as though if you give back to the area that you’re from, it’ll always give back to you,” said Rodriguez. “It kind of won’t forget you.”

Ask the advocates there, and it takes commitment to build a village.

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