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Las Vegas teen’s death spurs bid to help troubled youth

“Everybody grieves in different ways, and I grieve by acting.”

After the death of teenager Jonathan Lewis Jr. earlier this month, his father, Jonathan Lewis Sr., said he is now working with Lewis Jr.’s mother to develop a foundation called Team Jonathan — named for his son — that would work to redirect troubled youth away from violence and toward empathy.

Lewis Sr. said he and Lewis Jr.’s mother came up with the idea for a foundation while Lewis Jr. was in the hospital.

“We were just sitting there in the hospital together, holding our son’s hand, and we just really wanted to do something for our son,” Lewis Sr. said. “She came up with the name Team Jonathan.”

As his mind raced thinking about what youth struggle through, he thought of ways he wants to help young people build positive, uplifting communities, he said.

But, this passion for youth did not begin with his son’s untimely death.

Lewis Sr. said he has long worked with troubled youth by training young apprentices with difficult life circumstances as an electrician.

“I feel like I have something that I could really bring to troubled youth, and the environments that I work in construction are often plagued by violence, so I have a different perspective than a lot of people do,” he said.

He wants to use his experience to foster positive communities for youth who struggle with constant conflict in their lives, instead of leaving them to use community to commit acts of violence, he said.

Lewis Jr. died on Nov. 7 after a fatal mob beating in an alley near Rancho High School, which was recorded on video and shared to social media. Eight teens between 13 and 17 have been arrested in connection to Lewis’ death, and two others are persons of interest, as of Wednesday.

“If they’re getting together in a mob, they already have (the) power of the collective voice, and (could) just call upon the world to help realize that they’re suffering and that they’re struggling, that they need help and that their circumstances are leading them to be in a state of major conflict with one another,” Lewis Sr. said.

“If you don’t have any healthy outlet for those major emotions, they’re just building up inside you,” he said. “You could build something incredibly constructive out of it.”

He said state officials have reached out to create a Jonathan’s Law for the Nevada Legislature that would help get programs addressing violence in schools. But planning for a bill is still in very early stages.

Several organizations have also reached out to Team Jonathan to offer their support, including the school violence prevention organization Dads in Schools, he said.

“I just want to do something for my son.”

Contact Taylor Lane at tlane@reviewjournal.com.

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