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Pastor looks to empower Scotland County youth

The Laurinburg Exchange - 4/21/2017

April 20--LAURINBURG -- Tony Fairley talked to members of the Laurinburg City Council about a subject he is certainly familiar with -- young people getting in trouble.

Fairley, now an associate pastor at Life Changing Ministries, made his own bad choices growing up in New York, wants to help other young people avoid that fate.

Life Changing Ministries is holding an event on "Rock the Block Youth Extravaganza" starting 7 p.m. Friday and going through Sunday at 441 East Church Street, and I. Ellis Johnson Elementary School for the final night.

The event will feature workshops, entertainment, and food, according to Fairley.

Youth tend to get themselves into trouble between 3 and 6 p.m., according to Fairley -- the time when kids could be in after school programs.

"If youth don't find trouble, trouble will find them during those hours," Fairley said.

The effort to empower young people began with a committee called the Outlet of Empowerment #YES -- the YES stands for Youth Empowerment Success. The committee included law enforcement officers, parents, teachers and community leaders.

The committee wants to help youth and their families to achieve success within the community by providing mentoring, counseling, educational tools, and sports activities.

Growing up, Fairley was in a gang called "The Outlaws" before his community, lead by New York City's 42nd precinct police department, started a baseball league for kids to take swings over home plate after school, rather than taking swings in fights, swigs of alcohol, tokes from the joint, or worse.

"There are many issues going on among our youth not just in Scotland County but nationwide," Fairley said.

According to Fairley, nearly 25 percent of students have reported gang activity in schools.

The pastor also pointed out the gang problem is just as prevalent among young men as it is women, with female gangs being a large problem in schools across the nation.

Curtis Leak told Fairley he liked his approach.

"You are so energized and I like that -- you can tell that youth is there," Leak said. "If you can get with some of these organizations, you might be that spark they need to enhance. We have a lot of organizations to help our community that need a spark."

Also on Tuesday, Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey was supposed to speak to council about a program that could save money at the county jail and cut down on recidivism. Kersey was unable to attend the April meeting.

In other business, council:

-- Approved a new city logo that will have three oak trees placed over 'Laurinburg' and "North Carolina," written in a Gaelic-style font;

-- Approved rezoning of an 11-acre tract of land on Commonwealth Avenue from an industrial property to an office/institution property;

-- Approved the sale of 29.10 acres of land at the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport to the Scotland County Economic Development Corporation; and

-- Proclaimed April 18 as Lineman Appreciation Day.

Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171



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