For some, teenage years are difficult for reasons beyond keeping up good grades, managing the ups and downs of popularity, and dating headaches. For many teens, navigating the complex route of joining or avoiding gang life has to be taken care of first.

Four young boys from Georgia came together to find a way to avoid being recruited by gangs – they continuously asked for and, eventually, received jobs.

Dylik Smith, 13, Jalen Parham, 13, and twins, Desmond and Deion Woodard, 14, began asking around the LaGrange Housing Authority, where they live since May. Eventually, they scheduled a meeting with CEO Zsa Zsa Heard, according to Huffington Post. That’s when they surprised her with their story.

“I thought they just wanted to work for money,” Heard said.

But the boys showed up at 10:15 for an 11:00 meeting and let Heard know that they wanted much more than that.

“That’s when Desmond told me, ‘We just don’t want to be in gangs.'” Heard said.

The boys all eventually admit that they had been approached by local gang members and didn’t want to take them up on the offer, so they started looking for summer jobs.

Heard hired them on the spot after speaking with the housing authority’s financial department. They’re now making $7.25 an hour and spend their days doing manual labor around the property like building park benches and taking care of grown produce.

Some young people aren’t as fortunate as these four and are pressured into a gang lifestyle that can send them on a trajectory of criminal activity or danger that’s hard to come back from. It’s refreshing to hear about a community stepping in to help prevent it.

Photo Credit: Zsa Zsa Heard

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