COLUMBUS — Students at Lakeview High School are taking a stand against gang activity through a video created as part of a nationwide program.
Fourteen students from the school’s drama class spent this semester filming and editing a 25-minute documentary entitled “Small Steps: Gang Awareness.”
The project, brought to the class in August by Ron Schilling, director of activities for the gang intervention group T4C, is part of the “Not in Our Town” national initiative.
Originally proposed as an improvisational play, Lakeview teacher Melanie Gustafson adapted the idea to fit the drama class, which has produced a school-wide video each of the past three years.
The gang awareness concept fit, she said, because it’s a topic the students were already talking about.
Students from the class, which is co-taught by Megan Givens, began by researching gang-related facts, using Platte County Sheriff’s Deputy Troy Higgins as a local source of information.
Interviews with influential community members and Lakeview students and staff, as well as a testimonial from a former gang member are also included in the video that was premiered Tuesday in front of the entire junior/senior high school student body.
“Small Steps: Gang Awareness” refers to Columbus as a regular Midwest town “with a dark side,” showing images of graffiti and other signs of gang activity here.
The students who created the video said Columbus has a gang problem, although it’s not as prevalent as what’s seen in some larger cities.
Gang prevention, they said, begins with getting young people involved in positive activities with the help of parents or mentors.
Schilling, who plans to show the video to community groups and other organizations, believes the project is a prime example of the local effort to address gang activity in Columbus.
“A lot of towns aren’t doing as much as we are in the community,” he said.
This, according to Schilling, is why Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) asked Columbus to take part in a state-level production of the “Not in Our Town” initiative.
Three Lakeview students from the drama class will participate in a discussion May 22 in Lincoln as part of “Confronting Hate: Building Communities,” a program sponsored by NET, the Anti-Defamation League and Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest.
The program will air at 7 p.m. May 24 on NET World (NET-2).
Lakeview’s involvement with the project is a small step in itself toward the ultimate goal regarding gang activity here.
“We will win the fight against gangs,” a message at the video’s conclusion reads.