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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 16, 201712:00 PM EST

Bar Bulletin: How we can help curb teen violence in our city

by: Alessandro Apolito

Nineteen people under the age of 20 were killed in Jacksonville in 2016 by violent crime.

Already in 2017, two young men were killed in a drive-by shooting on New Year’s Day. Three days later, two teenagers were injured by gunfire Downtown during Art Walk.

Tragedies are happening too frequently in our community. Too many teenagers and children are being harmed or killed with guns or through other violence.

Unfortunately, Anthony Stinson is all too familiar with gun violence in Jacksonville.

In May 2013, his son, Anthony Jr., was killed in a drive-by shooting while visiting his grandmother. He was only 20 years old and a student at Florida A&M University.

Stinson knows tragedies like the one that took his son’s life could have been avoided.

Rather than resorting to violence himself, Stinson looked for a way to carry on his son’s legacy and to prevent other parents from experiencing the same loss he and his wife experienced.

He started The Anthony J. Stinson Jr. Association for Change. The nonprofit’s mission is to help end violence by teaching children ages 7 to 17 how to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent way, a quality his son’s killer clearly lacked.

The organization offers a safe place to play and learn after school. Children can receive tutoring Monday-Friday.

They also perform service work and learn how to be constructive members of the community.

While we can agree the violent death of a child is tragic, most people do not believe they can do anything to help prevent a tragedy from happening.

Stinson is proving that is false.

The Jacksonville Bar Association can help change the pattern of violence by rallying around organizations like Stinson’s and the Young Lawyers Section Ribault Young Lawyers Mentoring Program.

On Feb. 18, the section will host its annual Charity Chili Cook-Off and the beneficiary will be The Anthony J. Stinson Jr. Association for Change.

The Chili Cook-Off Committee has set an ambitious goal to raise $10,000.

If you are looking for a way to help curb the violence among teenagers in our community, then help us reach our goal.

You also can donate board games like chess and checkers, puzzles, books, school supplies and snacks for the students.

Lawyers can help support the mentoring volunteering to be paired with a student at Ribault High School.

Students participating in the program have demonstrated strong academics and have shown an interest in the legal field as a career.

Students receive one-on-one mentoring, get to observe mock trials and take field trips to the county and federal courthouses. The program shows participants that disputes can be settled peacefully and legally without the need for violence.

If you want to support the mentoring program, contact Alexandria Hill at [email protected].

Please join me in taking up this challenge to help curtail violence among teenagers in our community.

Alessandro A. Apolito is a partner at the law firm Brennan Manna Diamond.

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