Portsmouth couple hopes ‘Unity Initiative’ can help curb city violence

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - A Portsmouth couple's new initiative aims to fight violence around the city by supporting youth starting at a young age.

Ronnie and Nicki Ratliff first started the Portsmouth Unity Initiative six months ago and are preparing to take their next step.

“The main goal is to uplift our youth," said Ronnie Ratliff.

Ratliff, an English teacher and former football coach at Wilson High School says violence has put some of his students in jail and others in graves.

Still in its early stages, his initiative aims to bring together parents, schools, police, youth mentors, churches and even businesses to begin supporting kids at an early age; steering them away from bad behavior.

“We can’t blame each other, we can’t be against each other," he said. "[There would] be no success, but if we come together and show these kids that we’re unified and we want them to be great, then they’ll be great.”

This push comes as police are investigating five shootings that occurred April 11-15, injuring nine people. The Ratliffs' children were at an April 13 party where three teens where injured, Nicki Ratliff recalls.

“They were coming to the car. The next thing I hear is gunshots.”

The kids got in the car and Ratliff took off, but she says she quickly turned back around to find an injured teenage boy.

“I said, ‘are you ok?’ He said, ‘no, I was shot.’ He was scared, he was frozen and I said, ‘ok, I’m gonna help you," she told News 3.

Ratliff took the boy to a hospital.

It's incidents like this the Ratliffs hope their initiative can help stop.

“It hurts. It hurts all of us and if it hurts all of us, then all of us need to come together to change it," said Ronnie Ratliff.

Ronnie asks anyone interested to contact him via Facebook.

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