At least two former gang members in Virginia said they plan to join the military.
Teenagers Kurtyus Hairston and Jimel Southern of Danville, Virginia told WSET-TV that they credit their involvement in “Hoop Don’t Shoot: Save our Youth,” a local program that sponsors a weekly basketball tournament to help Danville kids stay off the streets, inspired them to make a change in their lives.
“It made me feel good," Hairston said of his former life in a gang. But now he has plans to graduate from high school, then attend college to study architecture.
After that, he plans to join the Army, he told WSET-TV.
“I got a brother that’s in the Army. He’s in Japan right now, and he’s doing good, so I want to get like that," Southern said of his plans, adding that he hopes to encourage others to stay off the streets.
"Meet somebody that can help you. Don't go down the wrong route," Hairston told the news station.
The Hoop Don’t Shoot program was created by a Danville woman named Angienette Dixon, who said she inspired to make a change because she was “going to a lot of funerals" due to gang-related violence.
During tournaments, faith leaders and law enforcement officials speak with Hoop Don’t Shoot members, Dixon said.
"It has changed a lot of lives, and we haven't lost not one of them in death out of 60 kids. They're all still living and they're doing better," she added.