JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -
Crisis counselors will be at Terry Parker High School on Monday morning.
It comes as Jacksonville officers search for several persons of interest in a shooting at the spring football game at the school Friday night.
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With two boys of her own, Avenicia Mason says she was devastated to hear a 16-year-old boy was shot.
“My heart immediately sank,” she said. “I was like 'Terry Parker, really? That’s right down the street.'”
The Masons are among the families who go to the church service at the school each weekend.
MORE: Raines student shot minutes before Terry Parker, Ribault football game ended, according to JSO | Duval County School Superintendent reacts to shooting outside Terry Parker football game | Terry Parker High School principal reacts to shooting outside school football game
They listened to a special message this Sunday – The violence: It’s not OK.
“We as a community have an issue, and it’s an issue that we can sometimes overlook because of the fact it may not directly impact us,” Ernest Almond said.
Almond is pastor of Higher Definition Church. He is also an educator who works closely with teens.
He says relationships are key to getting through to them.
“Having someone extend that kindness to you, to single you out and say, ‘Hey, let’s do lunch’ or ‘Hey, ride with me here. Let’s go to McDonald’s' or 'Let's go play basketball.’ Actually putting that time on somebody so that person feels cared for,” he said.
Almond’s church moved to Terry Parker High School in February. They’ve been working to find ways to help uplift families in the area.
They recently blessed families with random acts of kindness – paying for haircuts, groceries and gas during Love Our City week.
Almond says to stop violence like Friday’s, his church is also pushing to connect teens with opportunities in the community.
“What I want us to do as a church and as a community is come together with the businesses, the organizations, the nonprofits and begin to find what services are already being provided, what work is already being done and publicize that, support that and try to connect families with these services,” he said. “Connect teenagers with these opportunities so we can divert them from whatever path is leading them to a place that they believe this is the way to go.”
He says sports and after-school programs can be an outlet and lead to careers.
As for Mason, the Arlington mother says she's praying for the family of the teen shot Friday.
She says she hopes she can help bring about change for her son and other families.
“By the time he gets in high school, it’ll be something that is rare, not something that has happened every football season for the past two years,” she said.
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