Kids Pledge To Stay Away from Gangs, Graffiti

By: Ann McIntire Email
By: Ann McIntire Email

For the last four weeks, UNO graduate education students have been doing their part to make positive impressions on members of the Boys and Girls Club. Their message: "Stay away from violence."

The project is called TAGG, or Teens Against Gangs and Graffiti. Graffiti is a problem in parts of the city, but the UNO Students wanted to show the younger kids that there are good and positive ways to express their artistic side.

For example, instead of using a spray can, one student drew a design for the project's t-shirts.

Wednesday, TAGGFest was held at the South Omaha Boys and Girls Club. After the month long project, members of the club showed off what they learned from the UNO students.

Jesse Ortiz has been a long time club member, and is trying to teach younger members the importance of choosing right from wrong. "When I was younger, I wasn't as happy," he said. "I didn't want to participate in stuff, so to see those kids participate like that, it really brought joy to my heart."

Members painted pictures, showing how they interpret "non-violence," which was then put together to form a mural. Others wrote poetry and took photographs.

"What is non-violence? What does it mean to you here in the community?" asked Dr. Gigi Brignoni, assistant professor in the UNO College of Education. "I think [the young club members] realized that they are, the non-violent people in the community, I think that's the big idea they got, that it's up to them."

Brignoni said her students learned right along with the children. "They got so much out of this, they were inspired, those were their words when they worked with members, they saw how powerful it was."

One of Brignoni's students, Stacie Roberts, agreed. "Where these kids are coming from, and it may not be the same as where I came from, but the opportunity that we all have to work together, and be part of such a cool project, and bring all our differences together was really neat."

With the project wrapping up, the final step was for everyone to take a pledge. A promise to choose positive activities. "It really means to me, to stay away from all that stuff, gangs, graffiti, people that are going to bring that nonsense to me, I just need to stay away from all that," said Ortiz.

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