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At-risk children challenged to make a better tomorrow

LAWTON, Okla._At-risk youth learned how to rise above their environments and achieve success, no matter how difficult it may seem.

For the fourth year in a row, students from Lawton's four middle schools met at Cameron University for the 'Youth Challenges' conference. Leaders spoke to the children about how to overcome the challenges they face to set a standard for their generation.

All of the kids who attended the conference deal with struggles that put them at-risk. From incarcerated parents to academic struggles, those who put on the event wanted these kids to know that they can overcome obstacles and make a better life for themselves.

"Some of these kids are looked at as a problem, and I firmly believe that all of them are a solution," said Steve Ihekona, Men United Leadership Group.

Ihekona and his group are teaching kids how to overcome obstacles, starting with a little positivity.

"It doesn't matter what the world says about them. If they're saying they're a problem, if they have some problems, they're absolutely a solution and we want to give them positive feedback on how to be them," said Ihekona.

Ihekona also advises these kids to pick their friends wisely.

"I've learned that you if show me your friends, you show me your future," said Ihekona.

A lesson Marqus Stutson says he's grateful he learned early on.

"All the friends I grew up with, kind of hung out with in my younger days, I don't have them no more because I want to be the solution, not the problem," said Stutson.

The former college football player says sports helped him realize that he could have fun while being a positive influence.

"Find something you love. It may not be a sport, it may be that you like helping people, you might like painting, you never know. You might be an inspiration to someone to find that talent they never knew they had," said Stutson.

They also said when they look at the major events going on in the world, such as the Baltimore riots, they see many young people out there. So, they believe it's important to inspire such an influential up and coming generation.

Coordinators said hosting the event at Cameron helped show kids that if they get on the right track, they could attend the university one day.

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