Former gang members and local law enforcement officers will speak to North Charleston High School students to try to deter them from participating in dangerous and violent groups.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, is working with the Charleston County Human Services Commission and others to put on an assembly for the students. Gilliard said the idea is prompted by the recent killings in Colleton County allegedly carried out at the hands of local gang members.

"When you engage our young people to have dialogue with our law enforcement, we tend to learn a lot," Gilliard said Tuesday.

The assembly, one offered for ninth- and 10th-graders and another planned for juniors and seniors, is scheduled for Aug. 25. Representatives from the North Charleston and Charleston police departments are expected to attend, among others.

Principal Juanita Middleton said she supports the opportunity to help get the message to her students.

"Working with community leaders to send positive messages to our students is part of our formula for success," she said. "We are a community school and we value partners who assist us in actively engaging our students in important events such as this."

Arnold Collins, executive director for the county Human Services Commission, said the outreach is part of the agency's efforts to serve the community. The commission will put up approximately $3,000 to provide the students and speakers with handouts and literature on anti-gang efforts, he said.

"We all need to ask the young children of our community to work together harmoniously without violence," Collins said.

Gilliard said other state legislators also are expected to attend, including Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, and Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston.

Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, is expected to attend and talk to students about the state's criminal justice system and the way criminals are sentenced.

Kim Greene, a consultant working with Gilliard to help organize the assembly, said the students will hear compelling cases of gang violence and the devastation the groups cause.

"Issues like this need to be addressed," Greene said.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or