Nearly 30 years ago, Lisa Fitzpatrick was the target of a gang initiation.
She had pulled off the highway in Oklahoma City, to buy something at a convenience store, when a car pulled up alongside hers. She noticed two 12-year-olds struggling with something in the back seat. Suddenly, they were pointing a gun at her.
"I saw their faces, and they were terrified," she said.
Then the shot rang out.
The bullet only grazed Fitzpatrick, leaving a scar near her nose, but the incident changed the way she thought about gang violence. She said she later learned from police that the children were told they had to kill someone that night or someone in their family would suffer violent consequences.
"I wasn't the victim that night, I was the collateral damage," said Fitzpatrick, now 50. "The victims were the two babies in the back seat holding the gun. It turned my view upside down about who the victims are. Sometimes, it's the person pulling the trigger."
More than two decades later, Fitzpatrick was living in New Orleans when she once again had a brush with street violence.
Driving home from her job as an executive at a health-care company, she found her street blocked by police tape. Someone her daughter knew had been killed -- the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting. For Fitzpatrick, that was the turning point.
"It was just too much," she said. "Too many young men were lying face down in their own blood. I didn't want it to be normal anymore. I didn't want the children to think that this was normal. I had to do something."
Fitzpatrick quit her job, downsized her life and created the APEX Youth Center. Since 2010, more than 460 children and young adults have come to the center to spend their free time and escape the violence on the streets.
"We offer a space out of the path of the bullet, where a young man can put 6 inches of cinder block between him and violence outside," Fitzpatrick said.
APEX, which stands for Always Pursuing Excellence, includes fun activities such as basketball, video games and pool. But it also provides mentoring, tutoring and job training so that young people can set themselves on a path to a brighter future.
"We're empowering our young men and women to ... find out what they might want to do," Fitzpatrick said. "We work on finding our passion."
APEX draws young people from across the city, and the tensions that exist between different neighborhood factions can occasionally flare up. Fitzpatrick's ultimate goal is to teach them to work through those moments without resorting to violence.
"Statistics say that overwhelmingly, the young men being murdered on the street, they know their murderer," she said. "If you go get your people, and I go get my people, all we're doing is perpetuating the cycle. ... So our point here is to stop."
"Our motto is 'Reconciliation, never retaliation,' and that's a hard lesson in an eye-for-an-eye world," she said. "What we do is (ask) ... 'How can we address this differently? What could we do to de-escalate this situation instead of escalate the situation?' I constantly ask questions. ... The young men come up with the answers."
Sometimes, they'll use words to calm a given situation. Other times, they'll have "dance-offs" or use other artistic endeavors. Whatever the method, Fitzpatrick knows that every situation that's negotiated peacefully gives young people tools they can use in the future.
"I wish I could tell you that I could get them to change their ways, (but) it doesn't work that way," she said. "We give them the space and the opportunity to make that decision. What I have found is that no one has ever really given them the opportunity to make the choice.
"When I ask them why they hang out with (me) every Friday night, they say, 'Because you're the first person who ever let us in the door.' That is an indictment on our society."
Fitzpatrick is motivated, in part, by her religious beliefs. She serves as an associate pastor at a local Methodist church. But she said she doesn't force her religion on the children, and evangelizing is not allowed at APEX.
"Many of the kids ask me, 'Why are you here?' and I'm honest with them," she said. "I'm here because it's the right thing to do, and I feel like it's what I'm meant to do, and that has a lot to do with my faith.
"This is a nondenominational center, but what I bring in is universal. It's about leading a nonviolent life."
When you look at Fitzpatrick -- a 50-year-old white woman -- you might not think she'd have much in common with the mostly African-American males that come to her center. But the reality is quite different.
Michael Lewis, a 20-something young man at APEX, said he felt an "instant connection" with Fitzpatrick after hearing her past. Soon after, he was showing her his own bullet wounds and telling his story.
"I've kind of gone through a similar situation," he said. "I've hung with the wrong crowd and did wrong things, and we all know when it's enough, right?"