Dr. Joseph Jennings & Rev. Jerome Rhyant
Joseph Jennings, former gang member and President and Founder of Turning Point Outreach, Inc. developed the RAW DAWGS Youth Corps Program with the Kanza Foundation in January 1994, as an alternative to gangs in the inner cities of America. Joseph has spoken at more than 2,000 schools throughout the USA and over a million young people have benefited from the powerful and challenging presentations in his “CHOICES” program. From the riot-torn schools of Los Angeles, to the middle-class suburbs of Denver; from the toughest schools in Washington, D.C., to the well-off regions of Florida, Joseph Jennings’ message to young people has been universally embraced and lives changed.
Rhyant and Jennings, both sharing similar histories with overcoming drugs and violence, decided to partner up, and utilize their gifts, talents and resources to create a local RAW DAWGS chapter at the Love Center, which they both hoped, would have an impact on the community like never before. In 1998, Rhyant and Jennings took their cause to the streets and immediately had the support of the local law enforcement and the St. Lucie County Schools, City and County Commissioners and local community; and both have served as consultants to the local government for over 12 years. They have developed curriculums that have truly transformed the lives of adults with addiction and recovery issues, as well as with gangs and troubled youth.
Their holistic approach to rebuilding the entire person carries over into treating the entire family, and the entire community. Their mission is to change lives, one person at a time. Most recently, in order to help parents, educators, schools and municipalities deal with the serious issues of bullying in the classroom and ciber-bullying, they have added elements to their classroom/assembly presentations that touch on all aspects of peer pressure, bullying, drugs, gangs, violence, alcohol and other negative influences. Today, they are coming closer to their dream, with Rhyant and Jennings personally putting their time, money and other resources to build successful in-school and after-school programs and rallies. And they need your help and support, more than ever before, to make this dream a reality.
Jerome Rhyant is not your typical leader. He has often been referred to as straight-forward and controversial …and at times, he can be somewhat confrontational. But his heart is pure gold and his motivation for “tough love” emanates from a deep passion to help hurting people transform their lives. “I’m going to keep it real; the streets are real; gangs are real; drugs are real; bullying is real; the problems in our poorest and richest communities are real!” says Rhyant. Rhyant should know. At 30 years old, he was a successful business man and entrepreneur; from real-estate, to financial investments, painting, and contracting, he did it all, and he did it well…and he did it under the influence of cocaine and alcohol. His habit averaged thousands of dollars a month. Over the course of his young life, he walked away from over 15 vehicular accidents, overdosed on cocaine more than twice, and narrowly escaped prison and death due to his involvement with drugs and crime.
In 1990, Rhyant turned his life around, got sober, and found a purpose; to build a center of recovery for hurting and addicted men. Today, Rhyant has established one of the greatest missions in the city of Fort Pierce. With partnership and support from the City, St. Lucie County, City and County Commissioners, and Law Enforcement Bureaus, and his ability to raise capital from the local business community, Rhyant began construction of the Love Center in 1995. It was truly a labor of love for over 4 years, and during that time, even with the support of the community and financial contributions from all involved (including Rhyant himself who donated over $40,000 of his own personal money) he was faced with one of the biggest, most dangerous obstacles to that point: Gang and Drug Violence.
In fact, the Love Center was build on the very ground where more drug-related crimes, murders and gang violence happened in the entire county. During the planning and development of the Love Center, Rhyant’s own life was threatened by gangs, and one of his own men was shot down. It was then, Rhyant realized the need for a gang prevention program to be integrated with Love Center’s recovery programs. Shortly after this time, he met Joseph Jennings, and their meeting, and friendship would forever change a community, and touch the lives of hundreds of youth in a positive way.