Gang outreach program creates positive change in Woodbury Co. - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Gang outreach program creates positive change in Woodbury Co.

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV) -

When you're a kid, you should be worry-free, but that's not always the case.

Sometimes drugs, gangs, and violence pose a threat to your childhood, and your future.

For two decades, a local program has helped keep kids off the street.

Briar Cliff University Junior Waylon Goodwin said his life changed because of the years he spent at the Sanford Center.

"I don't want to say I was a child of the streets, but they came in like a big brother figure, and picked me up off my feet and gave me the right way to go," Goodwin said.

"We create a recipe to meet their needs, to keep them out of trouble," Gang Outreach Supervisor George Sayavong said.

And, that "recipe" is different for each child that's in the Sanford Center Gang Outreach Program.

"It's not cut and dry. If you come to me and you don't like school, attending school, I try to figure out what can I do to motivate you to go to school," Sayavong said.

Students in the program meet every day after school at the Sanford Center. Goodwin said, even though, he was in the program a long time ago, it helped him get on the right track and stay on the right track.

"I'd probably end up dead or in jail or anything," Goodwin said.

Sayavong said Goodwin is one of many success stories. He said about 90-percent of the people they work with stay out of trouble, but he said the need in the community is greater than the amount of resources they currently have.

"It's gone up to the point where we have 500 to 700 kids per year because we had many outreach workers back in the day, and now we have been cut back," Sayavong said.

Sayavong said they want to do more, but funding makes that difficult.

"We meet the need of the kids that we work with, but we just don't meet the need of the community in general," Sayavong said.

Goodwin said he recognizes the need in the community, and when it comes to his future career, he wants to do his part for a program that did so much for him.

"I want to do something similar to what they do at the Sanford Center. I kind of want to start my own community center," Goodwin said.

The gang outreach supervisor said other program graduates have gone on to become leaders in local businesses, and given back to their community.

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