STOCKTON (CBS13) – Stockton made headlines for last year’s record murder rate and soaring debt. Now the city is launching a major makeover as city leaders are targeting the youngest members of the community to create change.
This new effort focuses on children and teenagers growing up in troubled neighborhoods, where the sounds of sirens are an everyday occurrence.
“You can hear the sirens shake the house sometimes, cops getting called, gunshots, people are constantly fussing, yelling at each other,” Chris Sims said.
Sims is among the teens getting involved in a new program called the Reinvent Stockton Readiness Initiative.
“I believe it’s going to be something to change Stockton,” the teen said.
But Sims is not going to let Stockton’s crime wave get in the way of his dreams.
“My plan is to be an aeronautical engineer, which is a rocket scientist,” he said.
The initiative focuses on using pop culture to tap into the energy and efforts of Stockton’s youth to fight crime on the streets. The initiative will host a city youth conference with an estimated 10,000 kids.
Singer Jordin Sparks will be headlining the event.
“Celebrity and the media have a way of reaching kids that adults, their parents, educators, law enforcement, politicians will never have,” said Jason Lee, Reinvent Stockton Readiness Initiative.
Lee, a Hollywood blogger, grew up in Stockton and knows first-hand the struggles teens face.
“I was a victim of a drive-by. I got shot here in this city. My brother got murdered here in this city,” said Lee.
He’s joining forces with Councilman Michael Tubbs.
“To invest in our young people and give them the opportunity to show all the potential and the skills and just give them the opportunity to get there,” said Tubbs.
They’re working with the school districts, too. They are hoping to have an “I Am Ready Club” at each school, giving teens like Sims the opportunity to invest his future by working to reinvent his own community.
“I believe that this is one thing that’s going to happen, that’s going to change and it’s going to be for the better,” said Sims.
This initiative will also be partnering with entrepreneurs to give teens experience in the business environment.
It was able to launch thanks to a $20,000 donation and is hoping to raise more in the future.