Community program on a mission to combat gang violence - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Community program on a mission to combat gang violence in neighborhood

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There's not one solution to stopping violence in Columbia. But one man is on a mission in St. Anna's Park in the Lyon Street community.

He's trying to inspire the youth to choose a different path and he's holding them accountable.

"In my program we have a motto: ‘Work hard, no excuses. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard,'" says Robert McCray, St. Anna's Park director.

McCray known best as Coach Rob says he pushes kids to be their best even when they don't think it's possible.

He mentors youth and uses sports to show them how to be productive.

"Work hard at everything you do," McCray says. "That's in athletics, school, that's home chores. Whatever you do, you need to be working hard and giving 110 percent"

 Any kid from 3-17 can be a part of his program even if you claim to be a gang member.

"We do demand you try your hardest to get out of that life," McCray says.

McCray says he's seen some of the worst.

A few years ago he says he saw a group of boys getting jumped into a gang, but he stepped in.

"I ran over there to see what was going on and the guys said 'it's alright Coach Rob, we're just jumping them in" like it was ok," McCray says.

His low tolerance for disobedience helped keep Daniel Walker out of trouble.

It's a different story for some of his friends.

"Some of them have done well for themselves," says Walker. "Some of them chose the wrong path. Some of them sell drugs; they're probably in a gang."

Walker, 23, grew up in the area and is now a junior at Allen University.

He says his neighborhood sometimes gets a bad reputation.

"Some things that people just don't see," Walker says. "You have people who try to do right in the community. You have others basically you have the bad that's overlooking what is good in the community. If people give us that chance you'll be able to see what good really is going on around here."

McCray says when violence happens in this community it's often treated as a tragic norm and way of life.

"It happened over here and that's it," McCray says. "Nobody cares in the community and that's not true. Whether you get shot here or you get shot in Five Points, it should be the same attitude from society." 

McCray also says youth need constant, positive role models and recreation, to start to make a difference in the many communities across the city.

The center is open from 2 to 6:00 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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