It was a fun activity for youth, but the words of the song "Lean on Me," is sending a message to them and this community: leaning on and learning from each other is the way to keep the children of this community on the right track to success.
"We're trying to get the kids to understand that it's their choice. And it's either a positive choice or a negative choice," Children's Defense Fund Case Manager Layla Fitzgerald said.
About 100 youth gathered at the Meridian boys and girls club for a teen summit. Many kids say they don't have much to do in Meridian and it's easy to get into trouble. Many suggested more activity-based programs and a recreation center.
"Somewhere fun to go. The club is fun, but just having somewhere is the community will bring us back in, Teen Summit Participant Ronald Turner, II.
And that's what state representatives of the National Children's Defense Fund hope to help these parents, educators community leaders and anyone else with a vested interested in children accomplish...that's stop the cycle of cradle to prison.
It's a nationwide effort and coordinators say too many kids wind up in prison and more resources must be pumped into the children rather than the prison system.
"So it's a call to attention on the nation to say too many our children are falling through the cracks and what do we need to do to stop it, Children's Defense Fund-Southern Regional Director Oleta Fitzgerald said.
The kids' suggestions were brought to the adults at the conference. Coordinators are hoping to partner with existing organizations to get the reverse the cycle.
"What we are hoping will come out of these summits is that groups and community leaders and parents will come together and say what can we do in Meridian," Oleta Fitzgerald said.
At it won't stop here. A statewide summit is slated for November in Jackson. Also, National Children's Defense Fund Representatives plan to do a follow-up in Meridian next year.