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Battling Youth Stereotypes

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DUNCAN, Okla._ Lane's killing has caught the attention of people worldwide.

As the three juveniles allegedly involved in Friday's shooting were charged Tuesday in court, people took to social media to voice their thoughts about the crime, the kids who committed it, and the town it all took place in.

Tuesday was Duncan's first day of school. The city's youth filled the hallways and classrooms without three of their peers. Three peers that are making quite a name for the community.

People worldwide continue to talk about the crime so many are calling "senseless." And how it has led to so many of the city's youth being stereotyped into one category, bad. 

However, community leaders spoke out Tuesday to prove that is not the case.

"We cannot base the atmosphere in duncan on the choices of a few," said Russ Stewart.

To say that Duncan doesn't have children at-risk of making a bad decision or falling off the right path due to outside circumstances would be a lie. However, this summer's murders also cannot be taken as a direct reflection of the city's youth.

"I don't think that it says anything about the juveniles in Duncan. I think that people need to realize that there are so many kids in this city that are fabulous, who participate in community activities and volunteer," said Stewart.

Duncan Public Schools Superintendent Sherry Labyer spoke out Tuesday on the sadness it brought her that the three accused were a part of her schools. However, she is not letting them over shadow the 3,997 students who are working to do the right thing.

"We are focusing on the students that we have on the first day of school. We are focusing on the positive that is taking place," said Labyer. 

And that positive focus is exactly where Duncan Pastor Russ Stewart said the focus needs to be.

"We don't need to focus so much on the negative that has happened this summer. We need to focus on the kids of this community," said Stewart.

And Bonnie Talley is doing just that. She created Gabriel's House to help with what she calls "at-promise" kids. Her organization works to provide hope to the city's children that are too often associated with a negative stereotype.

"There are all these kids that need someone to stand-up for them, to be an advocate for them," said Talley.

And she her program works at helping the city's youth overcome the odds.

"A lot of our kids that started with us 15 years ago have graduated, several of them have gone on to college. I do believe that we have changed some lives. You can't change them all but even if you just plant a seed and then later in life they remember," said Talley.  

It is something that Talley said the community has to work together to achieve. She said boredom should never be an excuse for someone to commit murder.

"We have got to connect these teenagers in positive ways because they are going to belong to something or be part of something, that's just human nature. However, we are going to have to figure out ways to get them involved in positive, healthy ways," said Talley.

Talley is in the midst of working on a new program that will be targeted at Duncan Middle and High School students to provide them a safe place to go. This new program is something she hopes will end some of these juvenile crimes.

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