(CBSNewYork) – The fight to put an end to gangs has been going on for years.

One way gangs recruit new members is by infiltrating schools.

So how can school officials and others help stop it?

As CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported, Kareem Nelson is on the front lines when it comes to stopping gang recruitment in its tracks.

“I designed a program with three things that I was lacking when I was a child, which is one of the main reasons why I’m in this wheelchair, and that’s: conflict resolution strategies, critical thinking and how to maintain a high self esteem and positive respect,” said Nelson.

Kareem Nelson founded Wheelchairs Against Guns and regularly talks to students. He knows there’s no one better qualified than him to change the minds of troubled youth – in 1995 he was shot by a rival drug dealer.

“I’m them,” said Nelson. “I come from them, I talk like them, I look like them and they know me as being them, because I did everything they did, and I don’t want them to make the same mistakes.”

More: ‘Credible Messengers’ Connect With Young Gang Members To Turn Their Lives Around

Gainer also spoke with the New York City Department of Education Senior Director of School Culture and Climate to ask how exactly gangs get into the schools and recruit, but couldn’t get an exact answer.

“So we work very closely with the New York City Department of Education, also NYPD, borough safety directors, also we have very tight relationships with community-based organizations,” said Kenyatte Reed. “Our focus is to make sure that we support every child and that they feel that they have an adult to turn to, an adult to work with with.”

Nelson says what he sees are fellow students recruiting other weak students.

So what else are schools doing to try to combat violence?

“New York City has invested $47 million in many mental health and intervention programs, anti-bias, more respect for all training, social emotional learning,” Reed said.

But when it comes down to it, is any of this really making a dent in keeping kids off the streets?

“I see a change, there has to be a strong support system behind us,” said Nelson.

He says these students spend most of their day in school so it’s important to really reach them there.


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