By the time he was 15 drugs and violenceconsumed Roy Goyochea's life.
Drug abuse and death surrounded the former gang member and drug dealer.
A friend committed suicide while on drugs.
Local gangs threatened and taunted him.
Never miss a local story.
A drug deal went sour, nearly costing him his life.
But it wasn't until a close friend had been shot and killed by a rival gang that Goyochea finally heard -- and listened to -- the wake up call.
Now, at 18, his life has changed.
He quit the gang, stopped dealing drugs, graduated from Hilton Head Island High School and is on his way to establishing a career.
"All I was doing was harming other people, as well as myself," Goyochea said, speaking before a crowd of 50 area high school students during the "Youth Speak Out" at the Hilton Head Island Boys & Girls Club.
Saturday's event was the second Speak Out sponsored by Citizens Against Violence Everywhere. The grassroots coalition of local governments, law enforcement, schools, faith-based groups and nonprofits formed in 2008 to response to the an outbreak of violence punctuated by deadly shootings in the area.
The organization holds monthly meetings and organizes events that support prevention and early intervention againstviolence, drugs use, delinquency and crime among children.
C.A.V.E founder and Beaufort County Councilman Herbert Glaze said Saturday's Speak Out was intended to offer youth an opportunity to voice concerns about gangs, violence, drugs and other topics to parents, pastors, law enforcement, elected officials and civic leaders.
"The aim is to let them see adults as people who are here to help anyway we can," Glaze said. "We want them to know they have people willing to hear their problems, hear what they're dealing with, and present some positive solutions."
By listening, community leaders are better able to provide services to help kids cope, and hopefully lead them to better, productive lives free of crime and violence, he said.
"We need to stop the funerals; save the children," Glaze said.
"I learned that violence and drugs lead to nothing but loneliness and death," he said. "I got excited about drugs and gangs. Now, I have a different mindset, to save another child. I don't want anyone to have to go through what I did."
Glaze said the organization hopes to hold more Speak Out events across the county.
Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said if law enforcement and organizations such as C.A.V.E are going to succeed in combating crime, it requires a collaborative dialogue among police, schools, students, parents and community members.
"That's why events like this are so important," Clancy said. "It helps us evaluate our strategies to help students in their efforts to overcome those negative influences that lead them to crime and drugs, and instead become model citizens and students," Clancy said.