By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Both Green and Bell said that it's an amazing transformation when members of rival gangs go on out-of-town trips together. "Just getting out of the neighborhood and away from the image they think they have to keep up is all it takes," Bell says. "They are suddenly just like any other kids having fun, laughing, doing things together, helping each other. When their environment changes, they're just kids again."
Green, a divorced father of two daughters, lost one of his children at 22 to murder in Brooklyn. It is one of the reasons he wants to save kids. Most, he says, turn out successfully. The ones who don't haunt him. His first kid in the program was killed by someone who jumped him soon after he graduated. Another was sniffing glue and driving, ran into a tree, killing himself and two of his cousins. One died of a drug overdose. "Such a waste," he says.
The downside of the program is the short time--five to six months--that a child can participate. "Some of these kids need a lot more time than that," Green says. "They're making up for a lifetime of neglect."