Students got a glimpse inside gang life this week as the End Gang Life presentation visited Penticton and other Okanagan schools.
Jordan Buna, a former gang member, speaks about his life to students, warning them of the dangers, myths and realities of gang life.
“My real purpose here today is to educate the young people of this region just about how serious the consequences of some of the choices that they’re making have,” Buna said.
Buna was involved in drug trafficking and served time for firearm possession.
“I use sharing my personal story to kind of hit home with these kids, to show them you can start out as just kind of a regular kid and end up being someone who’s sent to a prison cell,” Buna said.
He’s now finishing his university degree in criminology and psychology and is a full-time employee with a school district in Surrey.
“The transition of leaving the gang lifestyle was difficult. It’s the polar opposite of the regular lifestyle. You’re up all night, you sleep all day,” Buna said. “One of the things that helped me was some of the really negative experiences I had in jail. Jail is not a very nice place, frankly.”
Related: Gang violence in B.C. on upswing
Buna, along with Staff Sgt. Lindsey Houghton provide different perspectives on gang life to students and both debunk the myths of success, financial gains and security.
“The reactions from students have been overwhelmingly positive,” Buna said. “I’ll have kids who I now work with in the Surrey School District that I gave presentations to like a year and a half ago who can recite every event from my life and every choice point in the presentation.”
The program has visited 60 schools around B.C. speaking to nearly 20,000 students since it was launched in 2013.
“One of the cornerstones to End Gang Life is getting out to communities, getting into schools and talking to youth about the myths, and more importantly, the realities of gangs and organized crime and that lifestyle that’s often blown out of proportion in media and movies,” Houghton said. “We come into these schools and we tell the blunt truth.”
The presentation visited Osoyoos Secondary School, the Outma Sqilx’W Cultural School, Princess Margaret and Penticton Secondary this week.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and not only are their eyes opened to what this world is all about, and we have to remember before we go into the schools, much of what they know they watch in The Sopranos or Scarface or those types of shows, so we need to talk about the reality,” Houghton said.
Outma student River Snom described the impact the presentation had on him.
“It’s kind of scary people getting shot and dying at a young age,” Snom said.
Fellow student Delaney Pierre agreed.
“It’s scary how you can die at such a young age because you’ve got a long time to live and you die at like 30,” Pierre said.