- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A western Pennsylvania pastor whose son was fatally shot in 2010 will be honored as part of President Barack Obama’s Champions of Change program for anti-violence work the clergyman began 10 years before his son’s death.

The Rev. Glenn Garrett Grayson is pastor of Wesley Center AME Zion Church in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, a depressed, predominantly black neighborhood struggling to redevelop and reinvent itself after decades of blight and high crime.

He’s being honored for founding the Center that C.A.R.E.S. (Children/Adults Recreational and Educational Services) in 2000. The program mentors young men in hopes they’ll avoid gangs and gun violence. It now serves about 125 children, ranging from preschoolers to older teens who are hired as youth counselors, given job skills, and taken on college tours and field trips.

The 54-year-old pastor’s efforts became more poignant when his 18-year-old son, Jeron, was shot at a house party near California University of Pennsylvania in 2010. Another man was charged and convicted of shooting up the party after he was denied entry.

“I could always empathize. But as a parent - to lose your own son - that’s something else,” Grayson said. “I was always in this work, but his death took me to another level of commitment and I transformed my life to advocate.”

Grayson’s program plans to open a community center named for his son this summer. Grayson said it’s a way to honor his son and bring to fruition something they talked about hours before Jeron was killed.

“When my son came home from school the day he died, he said to me, ‘Dad, I know what I want to do. I want to take the C.A.R.E.S. Center and make it global,’” Grayson said. “I didn’t really understand the statement when he made it, but now I think it was so profound.”

Grayson is one of nine grassroots community leaders nationwide being honored by President Obama at a White House ceremony on Thursday.

The event is closed to the press but will be live streamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live at 10 a.m . EDT.

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