ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — City and town leaders across the Commonwealth, as well as state government officials, are looking for ways to address and solve problems related to gun violence and crime.

In the Star City, community members say it starts with making sure kids and youth are developing a positive mindset, led by their surroundings.

Seventh-grader Jaquan Taylor lives right down the street from Kids Soar — a Roanoke organization that focuses on empowering families through literacy education, as well as providing a safe place for children — but he has never been inside of the community center.

“I would go in there for games and stuff like that,” Taylor said.

“A lot of nonprofits have different programs, and we want the kids to be involved, but trying to get them there is another story,” said Candace Hess, executive director of Kids Soar.

Hess says the nonprofit is looking to expand its offerings because children are more technology-driven and the older they are, the more independence they crave.

“I struggle, myself, with teenagers. They don’t want authority, so they want to be with their friends, and so then they go out and they think it’s cool and they want to act like adults,” said Hess.

Ryan Bell, founder of The Black Father Family in Roanoke, says the city needs more areas where youth can safely feel independent, heard, and accepted.

“We always hear, we say ‘we need more activities to keep kids off the streets,’ but it’s more than just keeping them off the street,” Bell said.

He adds that children and teens are more likely to be influenced by their surroundings.

“They need these opportunities to explore and expand their minds, to explore and expand their horizons, how they view the world through perceptions and perspectives, or how they see their city,” Bell explained.

He believes they need to be able to access those opportunities, both during after-school hours and throughout the summer.

In addition, Bell tells WFXR News that an important skill that a lot of younger citizens need is conflict resolution.