Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • April 10, 2019
Written by Carley Lanich
GARY — When Dr. Michael McGee, medical director of emergency services at Methodist Hospitals, first met Gary Lighthouse Charter School freshman Isaiah Johnson at Project Outreach and Prevention on Youth Violence’s annual conference in Hammond, McGee said the teen was ready to fight.
The POP on Youth Violence founder pulled Johnson aside. He wanted to know why this teen, at an anti-violence conference of all places, was looking to pick a fight.
That’s when McGee learned that just a week earlier Johnson’s brother had been shot and killed.
This year, with McGee by his side, Johnson took the floor in the Gary Lighthouse gymnasium and shared his story with his classmates — all 530 students at Gary Lighthouse’s Upper Academy.
“Losing your brother ain’t right,” Johnson told his classmates. “You’ve got to stay away from negativity.”
McGee recruited Johnson — along with Aaliyah Stewart, a former president of a local Students Against Violence Everywhere chapter, and Kim Collins, a federal agent raised in Gary — to speak to the high school Tuesday morning as a part of POP on Youth Violence’s annual program of outreach events during National Youth Violence Prevention Week.
“This organization was started because myself and Dr. Rutland, the chief of trauma, got tired of seeing all the madness of the violence at the hospital at Methodist,” McGee said. “What we’d seen the most of is gunshots and stab wounds.”
McGee, along with a lineup of community leaders, will visit nearly a dozen Northwest Indiana schools this week to share the message that young people must take the lead in working to end violence in their neighborhood.
The doctor has led the POP on Youth Violence nonprofit through four years of similar programming in the Region, expanding into Chicago neighborhoods two years ago.
On Tuesday, Collins, whose father was a gunshot victim, shared her story and advice for a successful career path beyond high school. She encouraged the high schoolers to act with respect toward others and cautioned the students to be cautious about what they post on social media.
“You are in control of your own destiny,” Collins said. “At this particular point, you’re young. You’re in high school. I want you to start thinking about your future.”
McGee and speakers are expected to visit five more Northwest Indiana schools by the end of the week, issuing each school a challenge to decrease violence and bullying in their school.
Two winning Region area schools will be announced at POP on Youth Violence’s May 24 Pre-Summer Youth Violence Prevention Conference and will receive an in-school pep rally featuring DJ from Power 92.3 Chicago.
At POP on Youth Violence’s largest event this week — a Youth Violence Prevention Conference in Chicago’s Hyde Park — McGee said Johnson will take the stage again and address his fellow ninth-graders.
“It’s an epidemic of violence and we’ve got to do something,” McGee told the Gary Lighthouse students, imploring them to act. “We’re doing our part. What are you going to do?”