St. Louis Ex-Gang Member Turns Life Around

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NORTH ST. LOUIS ( KTVI)-A former St. Louis gang member says he managed to escape the crime- filled lifestyle, but it wasn't easy. A local organization has given him the help and support he needs to change his life's course.

It was two years ago that James Clark with Better Family Life found 22- year-old former gang member Kenneth McClain. "I can count about 30 people  I know personally who have lost  their lives to gun violence," said McClain. Better Family Life offers an initiative to fight gang crime. Clark says there are hundreds of gang members living in the area. One of them was McClain. "The option is life of under achievement,  the penitentiary or  you may end up dead . I believe we have hit the bottom now .The conversation  is very  short  because they have seen enough," said James Clark , Community Outreach,  Better Family Life.

McClain dealt  and used drugs. A series of temporary jobs and watching friends shot and killed in front of his eyes seemed to get in his way of obtaining a college degree. The odds were against him when he decided it was time to turn his life around .  "Just think about your situation and think about  how much better  your life  will be if they had more education or just  more knowledge to  make better decisions," Youth violence effects communities big an small and people of all races and colors . Better Family Life  is on a mission to make a difference and make St. Louis  streets safer.

Youth gangs have an effect on youth violence because the general lifestyle and expectations of youth gang members can lead to increased youth violence. Gang members, by nature of their gang affiliations, understand that committing acts of violence come with gang membership.  Gang members may also encounter violence from other gangs and can be required to retaliate with more violence "  We just  can't go in and march, we can't go in and hold a rally, we got to go in and sit down with  young people and bring resources, said Clark.

Better Family Life, Community Outreach Department Neighborhood Alliance enlist a group of dedicated volunteers that are trained to perform outreach activities in the areas most challenged neighborhoods.  Mr. Clark believes that there are thousands of young men in our neighborhoods that will achieve if given real opportunities, but too often, help is not accessible. we believe that too often resources that will offer individuals a chance  to access  main stream America and make better choices.

McClain  graduated with honors  this year from  St. Louis Community College at Forest Park with an Associate's Degree n Liberal Arts.  The former gang member  will continue to share his story  with  troubled teens who traveled down the wrong path.