POP hosts SAVE rally at IU Northwest - October 22, 2016

Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • October 22, 2016

Carmen McCollum, carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337

GARY — Middle and high school students rocked out to hip hop and rap music from FM Power 92.3 disc jockeys when they attended an anti-violence rally Friday at Indiana University Northwest.

The event, sponsored by POP (Project Outreach and Prevention), which was created by Dr. Michael McGee, had numerous speakers, local rappers, videos and a student anti-violence/drug rap contest. Two local teens won $500 each to establish and support a SAVE chapter at their school.

SAVE or Students Against Violence Everywhere is one of the organizations leading the way to prevent violence. More than 200 teens, some of whom have SAVE chapters in their schools, participated in the rally.

The rally’s goal was to promote unity and nonviolence. Some of the speakers talked about how alcohol and drugs feed into the epidemic of violence. They said drugs are feeding the gangs, and in turn, the gangs feed the violence and drugs.

The presentation was interspersed with music and short videos, and students were asked to interact and sing along with the music.

McGee, chief medical director of emergency services at Methodist Hospitals, and Dr. Reuben Rutland — both Gary natives — said they returned home and wanted to contribute to their hometown.

“One of the reasons why I wanted to start this organization is because we see gunshot victims on a daily basis,” McGee said. “It’s so visible that you become immune to it.”

Rutland, who is chief of surgery at Methodist Hospitals, told the teens they are on the “frontlines,” and it will be up to this generation to make changes.

Chuck Hughes, president of Gary Chamber of Commerce, said the rally is an opportunity for teens to step up and become leaders.

“We can jam and have a great time, but the reality is that we’re losing too many young people to violence,” he said. “It’s also not just about getting shot and/or assaulted, young people are not treating each other civilly. You need to grow up and be the leaders this community needs.”

Shane Dorsey, president of the Student National Medical Association and a medical student at IU Northwest, brought along four other medical students. “We came because we wanted you to see that there are people who look like you in the medical field,” he said. “If this is something you want to do, it’s possible.”

Calumet New Tech High School seniors Malik Hale and Cassandra Araujo said they enjoyed the program and what it had to offer.

“This program is not only about nonviolence in the communities,” Hale said, “it’s also about acknowledging that there is a problem, and it’s up to us to fix it.”

Araujo said so many students and young people in the area have been affected by violence in some way. “This program wants to give them the tools to stop and rise above it,” she said.

The two students who won the $500 prizes with winning raps and poetry were Kionte Graham, from Calumet New Tech in the Gary/Calumet Township area, and Chaqwon Williams, from Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary.