Concerned Bladen County residents gathered Monday night to talk about what they can do help the county's youth get on the right track. Just hours earlier, ten students had been arrested at West Bladen High School in a series of fights. "I personally don't like to see children being brought to jail in handcuffs. They should be in school learning, what they're there for," said Niki Dennis as she attended Monday night’s meeting. Glendell Robinson also attended and said, "It's a sad situation, a sad situation and I hope we can get it straightened out because we are not used to this in Bladen County." While law enforcement is not saying whether Monday's incident was gang related, they suspect it was a factor in a shooting at an Elizabethtown McDonald's in January, which killed West Bladen student Jackee Sledge. It is incidents like these that the Bladen County Ministerial Association wants to prevent with these forums. Bill Young led the gang forum and said, "It gives proof for the fact that we are trying to do prevention, work with children and youth and young adults so that we can prevent these kinds of activities and situations within our county." The meeting gave people a chance to hear each other's ideas for reaching out to kids, such as getting parents more involved in school, creating a Boys and Girls club in the area, and having volunteers start up various activities. "I just want to be able to reach out and be able to help them,” said Dennis. “I think the community wants to do that and that's why we're here, to try to help out and guide them and give them new direction." The leaders of the forum said the next step is to continue to get feedback, as well as reaching out to every town in Bladen County to spread the anti-violence, anti-gang message.
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