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Afternoon of presentations heightens the spirits of the youth of Hobbema

The combined efforts of the RCMP officers and residents of the community of Hobbema have been working

The combined efforts of the RCMP officers and residents of the community of Hobbema have been working. In just one year’s time, gang, drug and weapon related information that has been relayed to police has lead to multiple seizures and arrests slowly making the community a safer place to live for people of all ages. On Wednesday, Jan. 28 Hobbema received media coverage for all the right reasons at an event that gave the large group of high school onlookers not only hope but help.

The forum titled “Youth building for the future” took place at Jonas Applegarth Theatre at Samson High School from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. After an opening prayer, welcomes and introductions, the first speaker, RCMP Sgt. and McGill graduate, Lorne Adamitz, addressed the effects drugs and alcohol have on the body, mind, and quality of life for those who use and abuse them. He showed realistic video footage that had audience members cringing but absorbing the useful and truthful information about the ability substances have to lead one in the wrong direction. “No one ever wakes up and says they are going to be a drug addict – when you make the decision to go down a path like this, you never know what will happen. You might think you’re in control, but really you have no idea what misery lies ahead,” he told the crowd before saying it’s never too late to turn around and create a new path for yourself. The next speakers of the morning were with Regina Anti-Gang Services (RAGS). RAGS is a group that works with anyone who wants to get out of a gang they are in and Catherine, whose last name cannot be published, is a RAGS client who shared her story. At age 14, she was in a gang and by age 15, she was running cocaine and prostitution rings in Saskatchewan. She felt like she had it all but was soon up for 22 gang related charges becoming the youngest female in Canada to be charged with organized crime. She got out of prison when she was 18 and was back on the streets but after an incident that left her battered, bruised, bloody and alone in the streets, she decided enough was enough. She enlisted the help of RAGS and, at 21, she is now attending university to obtain her social work degree proving that it is possible to leave a gang and do something positive with your life. Without the help of RAGS she said she would either be in jail, on drugs or dead. After her highly emotional speech, she answered crowd questions and RAGS worker announced they would be staying after the forum to speak with anyone seriously interested in getting out of a gang.

It was then time for a delicious lunch in the cafeteria and while everyone ate, Ron “Goldie” McClendon and Patrik Kabaongo from the Edmonton Eskimos spoke. “We drove in from the city to take part in this wonderful event and share our stories with you,” said McClendon.

After being raised by his grandmother with three other cousins, McClendon was surrounded by drugs, gangs and murder but he didn’t let those events and circumstances determine a lifestyle he didn’t want any part of. “No matter what color, what race, or what creed we are, we all go through life. The only difference is the choices we make. We’re here to encourage you guys to seek help and make the right decisions,” he said.

Students and staff then went back to the theatre to listen to Serge LeClerc. LeClerc was once one of the most feared gang leaders running one of the largest street gangs in the history of Toronto.

After elaborating on his fascinating but truly unfathomable past of physical, emotional pain and abuse that he wrote about in detail in his new book “Untwisted,” LeClerc met someone in prison, while serving a sentence for a 40 million dollar drug bust, who introduced him to Christianity and turned his life around.

LeClerc was pardoned, graduated in the top six per cent at the University of Waterloo, and was eventually elected to represent the electoral district of Saskatoon Northwest in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan in the 2007 election. “It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish. I am living proof that if you put you heart and mind to it, you are capable of achieving anything,” he told the crowd at the conclusion of his speech that received ear piercing cheers and a standing ovation that should have told LeClerc they thoroughly enjoyed what they heard.

Autographed Eskimo, Oilers and Oil King Jerseys were drawn for and it was time for students to head home.

Congratulations to the Alberta Solicitor General, the Hobbema RCMP, Samson High School and the many other people who made this wonderful event not only possible, but such a success.