ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis area high school football coach penned a letter to America after a 14-year-old boy from East St. Louis was shot and killed this past weekend.
Jaylon McKenzie was hit by a stray bullet at a post prom party in Venice, Illinois late Saturday night. McKenzie was a standout football player in East. St. Louis. He was only in eighth-grade, but already received offers from several colleges.
His death has gained national attention. 'My heart goes out to this family at this time. It’s no words that can make this nightmare go away. My family and i will keep them up in prayer as they deal with this tragedy! Rest in Heaven young Jaylon🙏🏾' Dwyane Wade said on Twitter.
McKenzie was featured in Sports Illustrated, 'Six Teens Who Will Rule the Future in Sports.'
And here locally, Lutheran North High School Football Coach Carl Reed shared a letter on Twitter on Tuesday.
‘Dear America we have a responsibility to make a change in the communities that are taking our youth away far too young. I am challenging men from coast to coast to stand up in the lives of our youth,’ Reed said on Twitter.
Full letter below
Due to an unfortunate act of violence parents have lost a son, coaches have lost a player, and teammates have lost a friend. We were robbed of witnessing the success that was sure to come. A promising life cut tragically short by the violence that has plagued our communities both locally and nationwide for far too long.
Most people when they look at communities similar to ours look at the bleakness and potential pitfalls sure to come. For years in those 89 blocks East St. Louis Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Darren Sunkett has provided an outlet that has saved lives and transformed young boys into proud men. When we lost Jaylon we were all robbed of the opportunity to see the greatness that lied ahead, the records that were to be broken, and the championships that were sure to be won. Most importantly though we lost another bright light that would shine like a star and give many more kids someone to look up to. To hope to soon follow, and to lead from the darkness into light.
Jaylon McKenzie’s legacy is sure to live on. I hope that this memory inspires change and a call to action for our parents, community leaders, politicians, coaches, and mentors nationwide to become active in the recapturing of the minds, hearts, and souls of our youth. Teaching them that there are no victories in violence. We must go past dialogue and move to address the gun violence that is cutting lives short, stopping dreams from taking place, and taking our children from their families.
Jaylon was marked for greatness. Destined to be one of the best of all time. He was the chosen one. Now it is up to our community to follow through on his promise.
Carl Reed Jr.
Missouri Minority Coaches Association'
The shooting death of McKenzie occurred the same weekend 20 people were shot in the City of St. Louis.