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Wilson was the toughest kid on the playground. Nobody messed with him. He and the gang he hung out with never had much to do, so they’d ride the streets and get into fights.

He didn’t talk with his parents, except to say he was going “to a friend’s house” or “to hang out.”

His friend Visif was the shortest kid around. But to Wilson, Visif was a role model on how to survive. “He taught me, ‘Don’t be afraid of no one,’ “ Wilson says. “And, ’If they ever want to fight, we’ll fight them.’ “

But Visif ended up dead. He and another boy were showing each other their guns. Visif’s gun wasn’t loaded. The other boy’s had one bullet in it, and when Visif turned his back, the boy pulled the trigger.

After Visif’s death, Wilson describes himself as “pure anger.” “I felt a burning sensation,” he says, placing his hand on his chest. “I thought maybe something happened in my body. It was about Visif. It was burning inside because I didn’t tell anybody else. And I didn’t want anyone to see me cry.”

A youth advisor noticed that Wilson was smoldering inside. He recommended that he join a youth organizations called the Peer Leadership Program. A long time passed, many sad days alone in his room, before Wilson was willing to give the program a try. “I was afraid,” Wilson says. “I didn’t know how to act.”

In the Peer Leadership Program, Wilson found what he calls “a comfort zone.” He found other young people like himself. There were fun things to do, places to go together, and people to talk to whom he learned to trust.

“If I didn’t figure everything out about using my words instead of my fists,” Wilson says, “I’d probably still be fighting out there, beating up anybody I could. I’d still be out there hanging with the bad crowd, ending up being killed.”

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