The Warrior's Tour is making a difference in NYC schools
SELENA HILL Special to the AmNews | 8/16/2012, 4:49 p.m.
Reformed ex-drug kingpins Lance and Todd Feurtado are teaching young people that street knowledge can get them through college. Under the umbrella of their anti-gang Queens-based nonprofit, the King of Kings Foundation, the Feurtado brothers are speaking to New York City middle and high school students about the dangers and consequences of guns, gang violence and drugs. Set to revamp this fall, the Anti-Drug/Anti-Gang Warrior's Tour Program, or the Warrior's Tour for short, implements intense workshops to equip teens and preteens with the tools they need to become responsible and productive members of their communities.
Notorious for running one of the largest drug distribution rings in the United States in the 1980s, the born-again Feurtado brothers launched the Warrior's Tour in 2011 to address and combat the root causes of youth violence. They, along with the Warrior's Tour messengers, use their street credibility to speak first-hand about the ramifications of succumbing to negative social influences.
"After touring the country with Bill Cosby, Lance and Todd made an assessment of the challenges that the students are facing and decided to put together this tour, which consists of experienced and certified men and women from the community who identity with the struggle," says Kamell Ellis, the Warrior's Tour program coordinator. One of the stops on the tour included the Queens High School for Info, Research and Technology in Far Rockaway.
For eight weeks beginning last April, the workshop facilitators taught forums on gangs, anger management, bullying and obesity. "We give them a more in-depth history to how we came up [and] some of the things that we been through, and we use that as a tool to help them recognize the stumbling blocks, the pitfalls and the traps that are out there," said Lance Feurtado. "We are so passionate about coming back to schools because when we were their age, no one took the time to talk to us. We can relate first-hand about what they're going through or might be experiencing because we have been there and done that."
Principal Edward Shepard of the Queens High School for Info, Research and Technology says that the Warrior's Tour is an antidotal remedy to the primary challenges that his students face. "We wanted to have them come and talk to our students because they are from this community...and they have gone through the same kinds of teen experiences that our young people have," he said. "We thought that by them sharing their experiences and how they came through, our young people can be encouraged, could be helped and moved from where they are now into better places and make better decisions," said Shepard. Tabulated records indicate that since the program started, almost 700 students have been positively affected by the Warrior's Tour's outreach measures.
Based on assessment tests given before and after the workshops, Warrior's Tour reports denote that nearly nine in 10 students learned a lot from the workshops. More than 90 percent of students said that the workshops were very helpful in steering them in a positive direction. The results also show that students became notably more aware of the effects of bullying, gangs and dating violence.
"I basically could relate to everything that they were saying," said Zion Sotomir, a graduating senior at Queens High School for Info, Research and Technology. "I got locked up; I was a Latin King [before] I dropped [out]; [and] I do smoke and I drink."
Franklin Reed, 18, who graduated at the end of the school year, says he walked away with the message that "street knowledge will get you through college."
Last Saturday, Aug. 11, Ellis hosted the Warrior's Tour community barbecue at the Van Wyck Park in Jamaica, Queens.