RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)–The Richmond and Henrico Health District has announced its new Gun Violence Prevention Coordinator.

James Braxton is tapped for the role of the health district’s Gun Violence Prevention Program Manager. The announcement was made during the health district’s press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Braxton said he wants to focus on establishing a culture of servant leadership, he also wants to engage with impacted communities and ensure that they’re supported and developed. 

His team will launch an internal campaign called “People First” that focuses on members staying “healthy, whole and prepared to give the community their best,” Braxton said.

The team is also launching the Trauma Healing Response Network soon. This is a community-implemented effort that the Richmond City Council has invested in. 

Braxton said his other goal is to push for “intentional investments into public schools, mental health, credible messengers, housing and grassroots leadership.”

He has 15 years of experience working in youth development and community outreach. His journey began as an area director with the Boys & Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula in Hampton Roads. Braxton later moved to Richmond in 2015 for the birth of his son.

That’s when he began community outreach for a local vocational college. His responsibilities were going into Richmond city and Henrico County high schools to help seniors prepare for life after graduation. 

In 2016, Braxton was the commencement speaker for Thomas Jefferson High School’s graduating class. He continued operating a youth resource center for those aging out of foster care.

Braxton holds certifications in restorative justice facilitation, violence prevention and currently works on juvenile justice reform with RISE for Youth

Braxton tells 8News that his preparation for this role as RHHD’s new Gun Violence Prevention Coordinator is that he’s “a living example of the kids we are attempting to save and redirect.” He said he was a troubled kid who was constantly disciplined in school for fighting and contributing to crime in his community. But what turned his life around was receiving intervention at an early age. 

“Ultimately, it was exposure to a different life that turned me around and now I strive to be an example of transformation for these youth and my community,” Braxton said. 

In 2005, Braxton faced gun and attempted robbery charges in Hampton. He said he was on trial for two years, however another opportunity to change his life came knocking at his door. A local dentist from Washington, D.C. trained him as a pediatric dental assistant.  “She gave me a chance and it changed my life forever,” he said. “I went back to court facing 20 years to life but because I changed, the judge put me on probation for three years. From there I put the work in.”

Braxton is the author of SoulStrong: Heroes of Trauma.