PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse High School, some very special young men gathered together for a conference on Wednesday.

They came from the city’s high schools as well Imani Christian Academy for a conference of mentors, successful businessmen, lawyers and clergy.

They gathered there to let the young men know that they are only “at-risk youth” if they allow themselves to be.

“We want them to change the beliefs about who they are and actually cultivate their identity because all 200 of these young men are leaders and can be successful,” said one of the mentors at the conference. “We brought speakers in that have been in the same situation as our students.”

Organizers from local churches and community empowerment groups expected 80 kids or so; instead, they got 200.

What wasn’t present at the conference was division.

Often times the senseless violence seen in city communities is based on where you are from. The focus of the gathering was on where they collectively are going.

“We’re learning that it’s not very hard to getting along with other people,” said James Andre Lane-Cralle, a student in attendance.

Another lesson put forth was to aim high.

“I plan on being a graphic engineer,” said Lane-Cralle.

“Business. I want to own my own sports shop one day,” added student Richard Lassic of his future goals.

There were so many messages put forth, all of them positive, all of them full of hope, unity and belief. Of all the messages the kids were hit with, one of the most important may have come from one of the young men in attendance.

“Life’s hard and you only have one to live,” said Rodney Smitherman, Jr. “So take control of it, conquer it.”

Pittsburgh Westinghouse High School
Pittsburgh Public Schools
Imani Christian Academy
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