By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
After the events of the recent fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile, followed by the killings of five Dallas police officers, a free camp is scheduled to help educate children about the nature of violence and the ways to avoid or prevent it,
Beginning Monday, July 18 through Saturday July 23, Stop the Violence – the Oklahoma City-based positive impact group whose mission is to reduce violence in schools and neighborhoods – will hold its free summer performance camp in Oklahoma City.
The week long anti-violence, pro-art and pro-fitness camp is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. at Douglass High School, 900 N. Martin Luther King Avenue. Dinner will be provided for participants each evening.
“We wanted to engage the youth in a way that builds on what they already love doing,” said Kuinten Rucker, executive director of Stop the Violence. “We did some research, and we saw that a lot of kids are going on social media and YouTube and they’re doing all these dances and singing – that’s how we’re getting them to the camps and giving them a safe and positive outlet.”
Classes are available for ages 4-18, which will include jazz and modern dance, hip-hop, and other cultural dances, as well as singing. These positive alternatives to violence will help students discover ways of being responsible, caring citizens, says Rucker.
During the camp, the group will host speakers, including members of law enforcement, to talk about important topics facing young people such as bullying, peer pressure, suicide and drug use.
The camp will culminate in a public finale performance at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 at the Douglass High School auditorium.
Rucker founded Stop the Violence in 2010 after his cousin Kruz Laviolette was shot to death after trying to break up a fight. Kruz passed away in front of his little sister and brother, one in elementary and one in high school.
This tragic experience moved Rucker to do something for the community. His goal was to inspire young people to choose positive behavior rather than engage in the negative actions that lead to violence.
“I looked for ways that we could get the kids involved in Stop the Violence,” Rucker said. “The first initiatives we thought of were dancing and singing. We started dance camps, which are really leadership camps with dance moves and singing.
“Beginning with that first set of kids in 2010, we taught violence prevention and talked with them about bullying, suicide prevention and what it means to be safe.
Snce then, he and his staff of about 20 volunteers have been able to touch the lives of over 1,000 metro youth.
“It’s about setting examples and showing kids the possibilities that exist beyond the problems they might be experiencing every day of their lives,” Rucker said. “It’s positive all around, and it’s making a difference.”
According to Rucker, some children who have attended the camp show improvement in their school performance once they return to class in the fall.
“They know what to look for and how to help when they witness bullying or signs of suicidal behavior,” he added.
“We’ve had kids who see other kids get bullied and they intervene, and their actions help to break that cycle of bullying. In addition, we’ve had children who’ve recognized that their friends are showing signs of wanting to hurt themselves, and they’ve known how to get help,” Rucker said.
“All of this is valuable information that we’re teaching in the camps, and it all comes together in a fun, positive environment,” he said. “Our true goal is to give the youth alternatives to make better choices for their futures. We need the continued support of the community to make this possible.”
To make a donation or for more information about Stop the Violence and its many programs, visit www.stoptheviolenceok.com or call 405-326-3621.