Violence interruption programs fight against gun violence

33 students participated in Turn Up Knox’s spring break program.
33 students participated in Turn Up Knox’s spring break program.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:35 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Turn Up Knox, a violence interruption program, gave kids an opportunity to earn money while on spring break, but the overall purpose of the program is much bigger.

33 kids, ages 12 to 17, spent spring break cleaning up Crestview Cemetery in Knoxville. They spent the week landscaping, mowing and pulling weeds.

“With work comes leadership, right? I think that was the goal for the week,” said Turn Up Knox’s executive director, Denzel Grant.

The purpose of Turn Up Knox is to support, equip and empower community members to break the cycle of gun violence. One way to do that is through early intervention programs.

It’s not just a volunteer opportunity. Each student participating took home $300. The week was made possible through a grant from the City of Knoxville.

“It’s super critical that we are engaging our community early, especially our young people, giving them outlets and resources and networks of support,” said Chief Community Safety Officer for the City of Knoxville LaKenya Middlebrook.

Middlebrook said giving youth a healthy outlet to work and learn outside of school ultimately prevents them from turning to violence in adulthood.

“The reality is they’re going to find something to do. The question is, is it something that is positive? Is it something that is encouraging to them? That’s up to us to create those opportunities for them,” said Middlebrook.

“I don’t think we can question our youth’s work ethic. I mean, all 33 kids, they came on time. They worked even in harsh weather conditions. It was cold outside. They came to work, and they showed up, and they gave one hundred percent,” said Grant.

Both Turn Up Knox and the City of Knoxville have similar plans in the works for summer break.