By Wendy Holdren
Local school officials, politicians, law enforcement officers and community members gathered Friday evening at the Raleigh County Commission on Aging to discuss ways to change the culture of violence that they say is becoming more and more prevalent.
Elder Carlos Smith said the world is in a “chaotic and confusing” state right now, but he hoped this community meeting would garner ideas that could be shared and put into action to make much-needed changes.
“We need to stop pointing fingers and clasp hands. We need to bring the hands together in concern for the city of Beckley.”
He said parental involvement, community involvement, and pastoral involvement are essential to changing this culture of violence.
Councilman Cedric Robertson said, “This is something we have needed for a long time. If we can work together, we can accomplish great things.”
Mayor Emmett Pugh said this is a community-wide problem, and it must be addressed as such.
“This is not a problem that any single entity can solve. This is a problem we share as a community. We have to come together with an attitude that we want to make this a better place to live and work.”
He offered his pledge of support from the city of Beckley.
Miller Hall, director of secondary education for Raleigh County Schools, spoke about his relationship to the young people in the community.
“I hurt when they hurt. I cry when they cry.”
He said there are 12,000 students in the Raleigh County School system and not all of those kids will do “what’s right.”
“We have to reach about and help them. We need to help our young people. Our society must change.”
Parents, teachers and community leaders must provide a foundation and an example for the young people, Hall said.
He said everyone must be committed in helping students with their academics, behavior and attendance.
“None of you are exempt from helping our young people,” he said in closing.
Congressman Nick Rahall also joined the meeting to offer his thoughts.
He said no matter our profession, each of us woke up the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and we were shaken in a way that we had never been before.
“The innocence of our children was forever shaken.”
He said he hopes community meetings become more regular, as they are essential.
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