As a high school freshman, Chase Haskins quickly found trouble.
He started hanging with a rough crew, getting into fights, skipping class and talking back to teachers.
“We weren’t carrying guns or nothing. We were just doing the wrong stuff, getting in trouble,” he said.
But the long-term effects that he said often come with causing trouble — death, disease or prison — didn’t look that appealing. So, he decided to make a change.
He met a mentor with the Right Turn program about a year ago. Instead of being on the street with friends, he spent time in community centers learning about and discussing issues that affect young African-Americans like himself.
Haskins, now an 18-year-old graduate of Fairdale High School, quickly learned that staying out of trouble wasn’t too difficult.
“If you’ve got your mindset focused on what you want to do, it’s pretty easy,” he said.
Getting other young people to adopt that mindset is the goal of a new program announced this week by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.
It’s being dubbed the “ReImage” initiative and will target residents between the ages of 18 and 24 years old who have committed a misdemeanor, Fischer said. Young people in Russell and Shawnee will be the focus of the program, but anyone is welcome to inquire, he said.
Police will work with case managers to get the young residents into the program, which will be facilitated by KentuckianaWorks. Two case managers are already working with about five young residents, said Michael Gritton, the agency’s executive director.
Gritton said a young person taken into the program likely wouldn’t be kicked out if he or she happens to re-offend.
“The whole idea here is to try to show them that there is a better way. Hopefully, we will stick with them even if they make a mistake,” Gritton said.
Only 100 kids will be invited to take part in the program, Fischer said, which he claims is not insignificant.
“If we can scale and have the resources to do it and make the case for it, we’ll certainly do that,” he said.
The initiative will receive $200,000 in city funds, he said.
Case workers will try to get enrollees to commit to stay out of trouble, Gritton said. They’ll also help guide them through the process of continuing their education, dealing with addiction and coping with any other issues they may be dealing with.
But the success of the program hinges, in part, on the participants’ desire to make the change from trouble to triumph.
For Chase Haskins, the choice was easy.
He’d seen how violence can shatter families and, ultimately, he didn’t want to get shot. His cousin was murdered two years ago near Cecil and Greenwood avenues in Chickasaw. His 1-year-old niece was shot and killed last year at 37th and Market.
Now, his goal is to be a homicide detective. He said he wants a career that can help families that have been hurt like his.
“In the streets, you’re putting yourself in the predicament to get shot. But if you do something else, turn your life around and go in on a better route, you’re not putting yourself in that predicament,” he said. “It can still happen, but at least your not putting yourself in that spot.”