CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – A lot of us spent our week giving thanks for the people and things in our lives, and for many, a big part of giving thanks is giving back.

This year, we are placing our emphasis on the Victory Over Violence initiative, and partnering with the United Way of Champaign County in a unique way.

In our Day of Giving stories, we are highlighting organizations working to end violence in our communities.

Corey Barnes was a part of one of those organizations.

He’s a first year education major and track runner at Iowa State University.

“I love the campus. I visited campus, I loved it. I like their major program with education. And I connected with the track coach,” he said.

But before all of that, he was here in Champaign. It was his freshman year when he first walked through the doors at Centennial High School.

His mom, Katrina Jones, said being the new kid, he had a rough start.

“First time in the city, we had a little bit of a rough start being the new kid on the block. So, we struggled a little bit with some things, behavior-wise. I did everything I could to, you know, get him on the right track, trying to get him involved in things,” she said.

Then he found with Goal Getters.

“And it was just like, almost a lifesaver, because it helped get him connected to some positive influences,” Jones said.

“I was going through a crisis sophomore year, and they gave me full support. And so I just think all around they really helped me get through a lot of things,” Barnes said. “It’s kind of like, it’s really a family. You know, they say it takes a village with the community, and so it’s all about love.”

Barnes describes Goal Getters as a life after high school prep program. Whether your path is college or career, but he said it does so much more.

“It deals with helping to support and to guide a lot of people who may not get that guidance at home or who struggled with the or needed support,” he said.

Jones said, looking at the path her son is on now, she is overjoyed because she said at any point it could’ve been different.

“I’m extremely proud of my son because he was on a path to being that kid, and he made a decision. Whether he had influences or not, at the end of the day, the decision was his, and I’m grateful. I’m very grateful that he chose the way he did,” Jones said.

Barnes said he believes the program and the people who run it helped get him to where he is today.

We will be collecting donations in our back parking lot in Champaign for organizations like Goal Getters, Tuesday, November 30th from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.