ROCHESTER, Minn. — More than two decades ago, Shaketa Clark packed up her young family and moved to Rochester, Minn., looking for a safer community to raise her children in.
Now, 24 years later, she's actively working to keep it a safe place as a member of the Community Engagement Response Team and a peer recovery specialist.
"I'm a mother and I'm a grandmother, and my children are growing up. Like these children that are downtown right now, their parents and I are the ones that were downtown 10-20 years ago," she said. "Now it's our children that are down there, and now my grandchildren are going to want to go down there, too, in the next few years, and I just want my community to be a safe community."
A Chicago native, Clark grew up with gang violence.
"I was also a gang member in my younger days and also into drug dealing to take care of my children in the beginning, and once I got pregnant with my second child, I got out of the game and I went home to raise my children," she said.
"It was just a way of life ... That was something that I just grew into, and I didn't go to jail or anything like that because I became a teenage mother and went home to raise my children — got back into church and raised my children up in the church."
Clark remembers a young boy slapping her oldest daughter when she was about 7 years old because he wanted to steal her shoes.
"I decided right then," she said. "My brother had lived here (in Rochester) for 10 years, so I decided right then that I wanted to take my kids away from Chicago."
While life in Rochester hasn't been without struggles, Clark said she raised "some successful children" and also found success for herself.
In addition to working to help others recover from substance abuse, Clark is in long-term recovery. She said the training she received for her peer recovery role also helped with her work as a CERT member.
Clark sees a long-term future for CERT.
"I think we should be there even in the good times, because sometimes, I feel like there is always going to be somebody who is in need. We should stay consistent, and the community should know that we'll always be here," she said. "We're just not here because something bad happened, with that tragedy that happened. They should know that they have somebody who they can reach out to at all times."