Local Man Starts Mentor Program to Save Teens from Gang Violence

“You know our goal is to just get as much community members or church members involved,” Manuel Stopani said.

Manuel Stopani and Centro Cristiano created the program Youth Matters in Rogers.

He said he was inspired by his own challenges in the past.

“I’ve developed a passion you know just to reach out and pretty much just um try to help those you know youth that are going the wrong way, so they don’t have to experience those hard consequences I had to face based on my decisions,” he said.

Stopani picks the teens up after school, feeds them and brings in a guest speaker.

“God made you with a great purpose and you are special, you are unique, and expect good things every day,” he said.

Then, he lets them vote on what activities they want to do.

“Or who wants to the skate park one or the two vote I need to see a show of hands for Crystal Bridges.”

“It just shows them that there’s more out there a lot of times we can’t see past ourselves,” Stopani said.

He said he wants to show teens they can break barriers, influence others and make good decisions.

“There’s certainly a tremendous need for a program like this in our community,” he said.

The Rogers Police Department works closely with the program Youth Matters.

Sheriff Hayes says it’s a great way to mentor teens who show early warning signals of tendencies of wanting to show a gang.

“Anytime we can get an independent very interested third person to take on such an significance role in a young persons life is huge,” Hayes said.

Stopani’s church funds Youth Matters. He said he hopes to see the program grow.

For more information about this program, contact Director Manuel Stopani at manuelstopani711@gmail.com.

Story by UATV Reporter Wendy Echeverria

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