CLEVELAND — A Cleveland community is still reeling after a shooting outside a city recreation center last weekend left a 12-year-old boy in critical condition.
“It's very disheartening. It's sad, it's traumatic,” said Sam Dickerson, a concerned citizen who lives in nearby Ward 7.
Those emotions describe what many in the communities near the Lonnie Burten Recreation Center are feeling after another weekend filled with violence.
It’s something that’s become all too common for 10-year-old Jayvontae Smith.
“A lot of stuff be happening. A lot of shootings, killings, stuff like that,” said Smith.
Smith and his friends go to the center to have fun and stay out of trouble.
“It keeps me doing what I got to do. Like stay out the way, like come play basketball, be with my friends. I ain’t gotta be in the streets, or stuff like that,” said Smith.
Around 8 p.m. Sunday night, a 12-year-old boy was shot right outside the center and was taken to the hospital in critical condition along with two other victims.
Smith knows him as Kenny, his teammate on the Renegades Cleveland Muny football team.
“I don’t know. I was heartbroken because we had just been with him,” said Smith.
It's heartbreaking for adults too who have spent their entire lives near these communities and have only seen the violence escalate.
“It went from knives and fistfights, to assault rifles,” said Dickerson.
Dickerson said tensions between different CMHA housing developments have been high for decades. He said it's hard to break the cycle and even harder to change how young people feel.
“Most of these kids down here, most people who live in this and live it every day, they have a short life expectancy. If you talk to them they say, ‘Man, I'm not gonna make it in my 20s,’” said Dickerson.
But he said he and other concerned citizens believe there’s a way to turn things around and they’re working together to make it happen.
First, they’re encouraging people to talk to one another. They’re also trying to encourage investment into the rec centers kids like Smith already know and trust, but in a different way.
“We shouldn't always want to put a basketball or football or boxing, all they do is make us more violent. We need to start making them have things such as chess, row club, swimming, to make them use their critical thinking skills, problem solving skills,” said Dickerson.
This story was part of News 5's special report: "Killing Our Community — Violence in Northeast Ohio." See more from this special report here.
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