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‘We Won’t Give Up’

School and police partnership struggle to generate interest in work against gangs.

Undeterred by the lack of participation among parents, members of a task force trying to keep local students out of gangs vowed to continue their fight on Saturday morning. Capt. Mike Vencak, commander of the Reston Substation, and principal Rely Rodriguez from South Lakes High School are spearheading the informal group as they try to figure out a way to involve parents of at-risk students and potential gang members.

The Jan. 10 meeting at Dogwood Elementary School was the latest in a series of meetings, but like the ones before it, Saturday’s meeting failed to yield a large turnout from parents or students in the neighborhoods off Glade Drive and Laurel Glade in South Reston, an area of the community that was the scene of a high profile gang attack last year. About five concerned parents joined a handful of school and police officials to discuss the issue on a frigid Saturday morning. "Right now, we are just continuing to preach to the choir here," Vencak said. "We have to figure out what we can do to get our message out to parents."

Rodriguez said she is ready to change tactics and the South Lakes principal said she is looking for volunteers who can host small groups of neighbors in their living rooms to discuss the problems with gangs. "We’re here to help, we hope you can trust us," she said.

Vencak agreed. "We have to figure out why they aren’t taking advantage of these meetings," he said. "Now, how do we get them involved? That is what we have to figure out."

Anyone looking to get involved can call Rodriguez at South Lakes, the principal said.

— Jeff Green