HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Thirty-five teenagers have been shot, and survived, in Newport News in 2016. One of these victims recently sat down with 10 On Your Side.
Gregory Alston ran away from home three times, and admittedly hung out with the wrong crowd. He is 18-years-old now, but says he got his first gun when he was still in elementary school. To him, that wasn’t unusual.
“Playing with guns is normal for me. It went from BB guns to real guns,” said Alston. “I felt like no one had interest in my life, no one cared about who I wanted to be.”
It’s a grim reality for many in Hampton Roads. Teenagers who should be walking the halls of high school are in the hospital, recovering from a gunshot.
“I treated the people I was hanging out with more like my family, because my family wasn’t there. That pushed me to the streets,” said Alston.
But some of that “family” turned on him, he says.
“I’ve seen own friends rob their own friends, own friends shoot and kill their own friends, own friends stab and kill their own friends,” said Alston. “So, that’s why I come to the club.”
Alston is talking about The Boys and Girls Club of Newport News, an oasis of sorts for this teenager. His mentor and Virginia Peninsula Director of the clubs, Cameron Bertrand, has helped him better himself after his gunshot wound.
“He just gives that positive vibe that makes you want to do better and better yourself, because when I look at him, I think I can be like him,” said Alston. “The world needs a Mr. Cam in every state, in every city, the world would be a better place.”
A mentor to this teenager who also knows the grim reality of being shot, because it happened to him during an armed robbery at a homecoming event last year.
“I was able to turn this into something positive,” said Bertrand. “I use it to teach others and turn it into something positive. I try to help these children to show them a positive role model.”
Gunshots push these men to give back rather than fight back — for the younger children.
“[Kids] think being in the streets, girls going to like you, you going to have all these friends. All of this and that. All of that disappears, all of that fades. All of them people I was hanging with in the streets, I don’t hang with them no more… I don’t see them,” said Alston.
His outlook on life changed after he was shot.
“If I die, I’m dead. I don’t come back. But for the people who hang around me who ain’t get hit…I’m going to be forgotten in the next couple months. Nobody’s going to remember I’m gone, they just going to remember that he died,” Alston says.