Save Our Sons program works to prevent youth violence

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

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During the LaGrange City Council work session on Tuesday morning, city officials heard from Bruce Griggs, founder of a statewide youth violence program called the Saving our Sons campaign.

Although the program is based out of Atlanta, Griggs is originally from LaGrange. Bruce is the son of the late William J. Griggs, the namesake of the recreation center on Glenn Robertson Dr.

“I grew up on top of that swimming pool,” Griggs said. “I’ve been a part of this community all my life.”

Griggs said he got a call from Councilman Nathan Gaskin asking for help in stopping teen violence in LaGrange after the recent shooting death of 16-year-old Nasir Truitt.

Over the weekend, Griggs and Saving Our Son partnered with LaGrange Police Department to meet with a group of young men, ages five to 17. The group mentored the young boys on avoiding violence and risk factors like guns, drugs and alcohol.

Griggs said the goal of the program is not only for the kids to stay alive, but also to stay free — free from incarceration, free from drugs and free from gangs.

The program is statewide, but Griggs said he would love to bring the program to LaGrange because it’s his hometown.

“We want to invite the city of LaGrange to become part of a statewide effort to prevent and reduce violence against youth. We’re doing this in response to the epidemic of youth violence,” Griggs said.

Griggs said they would like to continue partnering with the police department to have mentoring in the park.

Some of the money for the campaign will come from Kenan Thompson of Saturday Night Live fame. Griggs has also asked local businesses — big and small — to step up to support the effort to end youth violence.

One initiative funded by Thompson is a program called Stop the Violence, Start art. Griggs said Thompson has given them money to provide $100 for ten kids in each school for their art.

“If you draw something that looks good, we want to be able to put it on the back of a LaGrange police car,” Griggs said.

Griggs said the idea was to get kids to not be afraid of law enforcement officers. He said as a former police officer, he knows how some communities don’t want to talk to police officers.

“I’m a former law enforcement officer. We’ve got to start making better relationships with these kids,” Griggs said.

“They’ve got a job to do in the Black community. Kids there are being taught that ‘I can’t be no snitch’ at 10 years old.”

“That’s the mentality. They weren’t born like that. They were taught that,” he said.

Griggs praised the work that is being done at the recreation center and other locations around town but suggested that money should also be spent on kids.

“We’ve invested into buildings, in the structures of LaGrange, but we forgot about investing in these children,” Griggs said.

Griggs said that they want parents to be involved in the program as well.

“With this program, we make it free for all the kids, but the parents have got to pay. They pay by their participation,” Griggs said. “The first mentor that every child gets is his parents.”