Groups address city gun violence, disabilities

"I was 15 years old. I got shot June 16, 1996. It was the last day of my freshman year of high school," recalled Marzat Tucker.

"This happened May of '98. I had just got out of school and it was like a really nice day, so I decided to take advantage of the day and go to the park and play some basketball. Unfortunately, there was a lot of gangs at that park that day and they had seen one of my guys that was in the same car as 'em, and right away, you know, they started gang banging at the car," said Joel Irizarry.

Marzat Tucker has been disabled for 12 years and Joel Irizarry for 10. Both of their lives changed forever because of gun violence.

"I couldn't go to the same school that I used to. I had to go to a school that was more accessible than Westinghouse at the time," said Tucker. "A lot of things changed"

"You know at the time... I was 17 years old. I felt like... I was on top of the world. You couldn't tell me anything. At the same time I had the mentality of a kid," said Irizarry. "This whole situation made me grow up, you know, made me be a man."

Tucker and Irizarry are part of a peer-led violence prevention intervention program called In My Shoe. It is led by former Schwab rehabilitation patients.

Devoy Boyd is the coordinator, and is also a shooting victim.

The program speaks with youth throughout the city about the consequences of gang and drug involvement, and the possibility of having a permanent disability, explained Boyd.

"A lot of people think that it's okay to shoot people. A lot of people think that's okay to (disable) someone, and a lot of the victims are innocent victims," said Boyd.

Since many victims are between the ages of 15-24, the state of Illinois is offering them resources. Rob Kilbury is the director of the State Department of Rehab Services.

"You're 16 or 17-years-old and you got a 10th grade reading level-- obviously you're gonna need some training, some education… in order to be a productive citizen in this increasing skilled workplace," said Kilbury.

Emotional support is also a struggle. That's why Levon Stone started an organization called Magic. He understands what people go through when they become disabled from gun violence.

"I was a victim of violence also 16 years ago," said Stone. "I meet victims like everyday or on the random at the hospital, and I try to prevent them from retailing or escalating to being an ongoing situation in the community."

"When you pick up that gun, you aim to shoot someone or you aim to kill. A lot of times it's the family that's affected, depending on the outcome of the shooting; whether the person is killed or whether the person ends up with a debilitating injury," said Boyd. "It's something to think about because… what happened to me is nothing that I would wish on anyone."

For more info go to In My Shoes' Web site

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