MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Driving by the Whitney Manor Apartments in Frayser you may look at the blight and crime and turn your head, but kids who live in the apartments deal with it everyday. Now one 9-year-old has expressed the toll it is taking.
After school means a meal and activities at the Lifeline to Success Community Center for these Frayser students. When they were asked to write what was on their minds Tuesday, 9-year-old Jada Gray didn't hold back.
"To don't get shot. Two people got shot across the street last night," said Jada.
The 4th grader let out what many kids feel who live in Whitney Manor. She may have struggled with the grammar and spelling, but her words echoed a deep problem.
She feared being shot.
"I heard gunshots and people running," said Jada.
The apartments where she lives have seen almost a 500 percent increase in crime.
"It's been every bit of 20 to 30 shots two times a day every day for the last week. Then when it gets dark you have to be in the house," said Cortez Wilson, who lives in Whitney Manor.
There was a shooting there the night before Jada wrote her note. She even mentioned it in her note, "two people got shot last night across the street."
A 4th grader who, instead of dealing with math and reading, is fearing bullets.
"She tells me when you hear gunshots go in the closet and pray. Go in the closet and pray," said Jada, describing what her mother does when the gunfire starts.
"It's just not fair. She shouldn't have to live that way and it's our job as adults to fix it," said Lifeline to Success founder Deandre Brown.
Jada's note brought him to tears.
He has been working in the community to give families hope, jobs and better living conditions. He said this really hits home.
"Children are scarred by the things that they see. It just can't continue that way," said Brown. "In a situation like this, our job is to respond and help. We are not blaming anybody for the conditions. What we want to do is find solutions so those problems no longer exist."
It's why the Lifeline to Success workers and a leader from Jada's school, Frayser Elementary, walked Whitney Manor Wednesday morning, assessing the situation and making plans to clean up what they can.
They are trying to give hope to those who live in the apartments and show children like Jada someone does care.
"She lit the fire. It's our job to carry the torch," said Brown.
"I feel scared because you might not know if it (the bullet) is gonna come into the window or anything," said Jada.
Jada's mom allowed the 9-year-old to speak with WREG and said she's not surprised by what her daughter wrote. She has 6 other kids and fears for them too.
Lifeline to Success plans to be at Whitney Manor Friday morning to begin clean up.
If you want to help reach kids in the area by volunteering to tutor or mentor children in Lifeline to Success' after school program, call (901) 729-6537.