ROCKFORD (WREX) – Oliver Reed was born and raised in Rockford and has worked with the local Boys & Girls Club for years.
He is their Director of Violence and Gang Prevention as well as the creator of a relatively new project for the organization.
It’s called the Target Outreach Program.
“The idea is that we would target about 30 students and we would work with them to reduce violence and gang activity within the community,” said Reed.
The program started three years ago with 40 students at Jefferson High School, more kids than Reed thought they could handle at the time.
Today, the program works with 160 young men in four schools across Rockford; Jefferson, Auburn, East and Guilford.
Reed thought the best way to reach the kids would be to bring the program to them directly.
“The kids were right there, we could recruit right there. We knew that if, for whatever reason, they needed academic support, we had counselors and teachers,” said Reed.
“Everything was really right there where we need it.”
The quick growth of the program can be seen through the words of the kids involved.
“It’s really motivated more and made me want to better and really care about my future and make me want to actually be something and do the right thing,” said Jefferson High School Junior Raziel Jefferson.
This new motivation for success is all thanks to Reed, a man these kids consider family.
“He’s like another father to me. I really didn’t grow up with a father and now there’s someone who actually cares about me and cares about what I do with my life really means a lot to me,” said Jefferson High School Junior Travarion Hempstead.
“I kind of lost myself and then once I joined this program, it really helped me find what I want to do with my life.”
As many of these boys prepare to graduate from high school, and the program, Reed hopes he continues to hear from them as they move on to the next chapter of their lives.
“I’ve been in this field for quite a long time so to have someone come back and say ‘hey you know what you were really inspirational in my life’ that’s really what does it for me,” said Reed.
Reed and the Target Outreach program have helped send kids on college visits, organized weekend retreats and have 10 kids taking part in a paid apprenticeship with ComEd over the summer.