READING, Pa - A dip in the Clinton Street Pool, in Reading, was how dozens of students enjoyed some of the last moments of their summer vacation.
Many turned out Tuesday night for the 10th Anniversary of the "Hangin' in the Hood" event in conjunction with "National Night Out," the nationwide anti-crime initiative.
"We wanted it to be a night of peace for our youth," said DuShawn Ware, Education Director at the Olivet Boys and Girls Club. "A night that they can come out and begin to start their school year on a positive note."
The event had extra meaning for many students, considering the rash of homicides that plagued several Reading School District students during the 2010-2011 school year.
In September, 15-year-old Willie Tineo was killed.
The following month, 18-year-old David Arango's body was found in the Oakbrook section of Reading with a gunshot wound to the head.
Just hours before Thanksgiving, 19-year-old Jason Rodriguez was killed. Rodriguez was actually scheduled to get married later that week.
Just before Christmas, 19-year-old, Reading High graduate, Henry Caston, Jr., lost his life after he was shot in the chest.
And as of Tuesday night, police continue their manhunt for 17-year-old Reading High student, Matthew Perkins, wanted in connection with a shooting over the weekend that left one person dead, and two others wounded.
"It's a waste of life, and it's a waste of experience and talent," said Reading School Board member, Isamac Figueroa-Torres. "Because from what I understand, the families that I've spoken to, these kids they had potential. Now we'll never be able to see it."
But students splashing around the Clinton Street Pool for "Hangin' in the Hood said things will be different this year." Nichole Young-Trapp is the student president of Reading High School's Project Peace. The program was started in February in response to the homicides of Tineo, Arango, Rodriguez and Caston, Jr.
"This is going to be a better year, a positive year. This is what we're staring out with. To let everybody know that we're still here and we're going to continue to be positive," said Young-Trapp.
"Hangin' in the Hood" was started with help from the government agency Weed & Seed. Organizers say this year their funding was cut, but thanks to community donations, the event went on as planned.
"So this has been a blessing, and it's just growing and growing and growing," said Ware.
Making a difference, one student at a time.
Allentown, PA 18102