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Antigang group turns New York thugs into college students

Council for Unity youth leaders counsel elementary, junior, and senior high school students on how to resolve conflicts without violence.

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DaJuan Hawkins spent four months in jail for assault and thought he was destined for a life of street crime.

Today, the high school senior is heading for college and writing poetry.

Bobby Marchesi hung out with a group of tough Italian boys who clashed violently with black kids at his high school in the borough of Brooklyn, in New York City. Now, he's a lawyer.

What transformed Mr. Hawkins and Mr. Marchesi into confident, productive, and compassionate human beings, they say, is the Council for Unity.

Founded as a small antigang group in 1975, the council now claims to reach 100,000 people of all cultures in New York City, Milwaukee, and San Francisco, and as far away as Nigeria and the Republic of Moldova.

Its mission has also grown: The council recently published a book of student writings. It works with families and in correctional facilities. It is developing a public-safety curriculum in partnership with police in Riverhead, Long Island.

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