It's not music videos that have young people bringing guns to school and idolizing the thug life, 16-year-old Robert Hooks said.
The Academy of Richmond County sophomore said other elements affect why today's black youth are misguided.
"It has to do with where they grow up," Robert said. "They think it's cool, so they just make stupid mistakes and follow the wrong way."
Youth, parents and a panel of experts gathered Wednesday night at Tabernacle Baptist Church to brainstorm on how to improve the mind-set of today's black youth.
The forum, titled State of the Black Youth: Mis-education of a Lost Generation, was conceived after the shooting of an Augusta man by a Tubman Middle School pupil earlier this year, said Mona Gordon, an organizer of the forum.
"I just thought we need to do something," she said. "We can't just talk about it. We have to listen to the youth and let them know we care."
The panelists, which included Carol Rountree, Richmond County schools director of student services, and Sandra Wimberly, the director of the East Central Health Department, answered questions posed by young people.
The questions ranged from how to cope with not having a father figure to how to avoid pre-marital sex.
Building healthy relationships is essential to having the right answers to most of the questions posed Wednesday night, Dr. Rountree said.
"Young people are so influenced by what's going on around them," she said. "Kids need to really build relationships with parents, concerned adults and counselors. That's the key."
Robert said he faces challenges going on the right path, but socializing with positive people has helped him, and could help other youth.
"I know a lot of them won't listen to their parents, but they need people their own age or maybe a little older to show them the right way."
Ms. Gordon said Wednesday night's forum will be the first of many held at Tabernacle.
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