"Your Future, Your Decision" program held in South Holyoke - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

"Your Future, Your Decision" program held in South Holyoke

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HOLYOKE, MA (WSHM) -

Less than a week after several gang members were taken off the streets of Holyoke, state and city officials spoke to students at a nearby school close to where one of the raids took place about the importance of making good decisions and staying out of gangs.

Many officials including U.S. Attorney Carmin Ortiz, the Hampden County District Attorney, and a former gang member who grew up in the city joined together for the "Your Future, Your Decision" program to speak to around 100 fifth and sixth grade students at the Morgan Full-Service Community School.

"You got to really step back and really ask yourself what you get from it and what you don't and you got to weigh the two," said Edgardo Camacho, who grew up in South Holyoke.

Camacho was in a gang for a few years growing up.

"You just had to do it if you wanted to hang you wanted to be with the cool guys you just had to," said Camacho.

But, Tuesday he told the students that there are other options.

"From being in a gang yeah you're going to get some perks, you're going to get extra money you're going to be recognized, but at the end of the day what really matters," said Camacho. "You got to really look inside you and realize what kind of a man you want to be."

Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni says that one of the goals of the event was to let kids know that there is more to life than the bad things they may be experiencing right now.

"It's critically important in neighborhoods like this that are struggling with many different issues including economic issues, drug issues, crime issues to be able to be able to make these kids understand that there is life outside this neighborhood," said Mastroianni.

And, a major part of the program was to provide these students with the types of organizations that are out there to offer them help right now.

"We're here to talk about what kinds of resources are available for them, and the different opportunities and options that they have so that they make the right decisions and can lead a healthy, happy and productive life," said Ortiz.

Several students that CBS 3 spoke with said they experience problems like drugs or gangs frequently, but programs like this help them to remember what they want to accomplish in life.

"I think what they said really opened my eyes and really made me think about my future," said fifth-grader Raven Jones.

"My motivation is I watch TV and other people like the president give me inspiration," said fifth-grader Ryan Rodriguez.

And, as part of the program students received a teen resource guide put together by the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke and the Hampden County Sheriff's Department containing information about youth serving agencies and programs.

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