Youth participating in the Third Annual “Don’t Touch the Fire Youth Symposium” heard from former multimillion-dollar drug dealer James Cooper who served nine years in prison for his crimes. While in prison, Cooper chose to change his life and work to change the lives of young people who are on the same self-destructive road. The Fulton County District 4 Commissioner Joan P. Garner and the Aging and Youth Services Department, Office of Children and Youth hosted the Symposium on Friday, March 25, 2016, at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. The 2016 Conference continued the theme of “Talk, Think and Take Action because I Matter”
The 2016 Symposium also featured Jacquan “Tropakana” Cooper, the son of James Cooper who was following in his father’s drug dealing footsteps until his arrest three weeks before his high school graduation for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute. According to Jacquan, the arrest served as a turning point in his life. He credits his father with helping put him on the road to success. Jacquan is now signed to the Whyte Boiz Muzik Group, an independent record label.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua served as the afternoon luncheon speaker. Judge LaGrua warned of the dire and life changing consequences of crimes that can take youth from Juvenile Court to Superior Court.
More than 200 youth facing challenges attended the event with several attending for a second time. Two children, who were influenced by the conference to change their thinking, participated in this year’s conference. They are Maynard H. Jackson High School Sophomore Shandria Reeves and 16-year-old Carver High School student Jalen Beene. Both were excited to share their turn around stories.