FORT DODGE, Iowa — Two teenagers were shot and killed in Fort Dodge this month, likely at the hands of other teenagers. A group connected to Fort Dodge’s schools hopes they can change the city’s culture by talking to its youngest residents.
NextGen Fort Dodge formed after the deaths of 18-year-old Patrick Walker and Adrian Grover, also 18 years old. NextGen founders Paige Williams and Sarah Gross hope the answer is to inspire and mentor Fort Dodge students in their formative years.
“We’ll really dive in on 3rd through 8th grade students, because we think those are the age groups we can have the biggest impact in,” Williams said. “If we can catch them there, it will be a trickle effect through the rest of their lives.”
Both Williams and Gross have experience working with Fort Dodge children; Williams mentors students at Fort Dodge Middle School and Gross teaches special education at Butler Elementary School.
They say they want the community to stop giving up on the children they deem as problematic and start listening to their concerns instead.
“Within our community, there’s a lot of children with trauma that just need to be heard,” gross said. “They just need that extra support.”
“If you’ve grown up here and Fort Dodge is some place you call home and really cherish, it’s something that’s worth fighting for,” Williams said.
NextGen’s first meeting will happen inside the Rides Banquet Center on June 14 at 6 p.m. Williams and gross invite anyone within Fort Dodge to come and bring their ideas on how to mentor the next generation.