NEW ORLEANS - "Stop the violence now."
That was the cry from Warren Easton High School's cheer squad as they greeted families walking into a teen peace summit at the UNO Lakefront Arena Saturday.
One of those families knows all too well the devastating impact violence can have.
"Just an innocent kid gone, you know," said Joseph Foster.
Foster cousin is Brandon Adams, 15, who was shot and killed late last month while walking with his brother in the Desire neighborhood.
"Brandon was a sweet person," said Foster. "He lost his life, innocent kid, was an 'A' student."
Foster and his family are hoping events like the peace summit help stop senseless violence. The free summit, held by Crimestoppers, is aimed at inspiring teens through music and positive role models.
Young people like Travis Barnes, 12, met with dozens of exhibitors who showcased productive paths for the future. Colleges, employers and anti-violence agencies were among those with booths.
The second annual summit was funded by donations and grants, one of which didn't come through because of the recent stalemate in the city council. The $2,000 grant from Harrah's would have gone toward production costs.
"That was a small bump in the road. We hope that will come through with next years event," said Darlene Cusanza, president and CEO of Crimestoppers.
Organizers said the number of tickets distributed for the teen summit more than tripled from last year, when about 2,200 tickets were sold. Unlike this year, last year's event was not free.
"I came last year and it inspired me to come back," said Jarvis Reynolds, a junior at Holy Cross, who volunteered at the event.
"It definitely touches lives, particularly when you see victims' families here giving testimonies, you realize the violence could happen to anybody," said Cusanza.
Ernest Jackson said he attended with his children because he wants to show them there are positive options.
"I just want my children to understand there's better places than what they're going through now. That's all I want. I want a better life for everybody really," said Jackson
And that's what Foster wants too. A better life and a safer city where families won't have to mourn the loss of those gone too soon.
"We love you, Brandon," said Foster. "Miss you too."
Crimestoppers holds a number of teen programs throughout the year. If you would like to get involved, call Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.