Community leaders and residents gathered at the Cornerstone Commons Wednesday night to pray for an end to gun violence in the city.

The second annual Impact Teens Citywide Prayer vigil is part of an ongoing effort by the youth-driven group to create change, increase unity and offer hope.

With the recent school shootings in Florida and Georgia, Khalil Cobb, co-founder of Impact Teens, said the event is needed now more than ever.

"Our main goal is to unite our community," Cobb said. "The stronger the people, the stronger the change will be."

The first prayer vigil, held in June 2017, was started following a rash of gun violence involving teens in Goldsboro. Ja'Shawn Faire, Impact Teens co-founder, said the event is a way to engage the community and inspire others to make Goldsboro a better place.

"Prayer does work," Faire said. "We like to pray for our city and come together and unite our city. Events like this help us to get to know the people in our city."

Essence Bryant, president of the group, read a poem about "Community Peace."

"When there's harmony, there is peace," she said. "Joy on earth does increase. For peace to grow in your community, the first step is social unity.

"We all know that healthy relations are the keys to peaceful nations. Wars and conflicts we must avoid, so that the beauty of life may be enjoyed. We just need to open our hearts. That's where peace clearly starts. It's not that difficult to embrace and find, with a caring and open mind."

During the event, Mark Colebrook, founder of Operation Unite Goldsboro, offered words of empowerment.

"First, let's look at the past," he said. "This is, unfortunately, the reason we are here today. There was an increase in the number of gun-related deaths, especially for our teenagers, in 2016 and 2017.

"The future looks bright because of many organizations and people like Impact Teens. We are on the right track."

The mission of Impact Teens is to solve problems, improve the community and inspire hope. Their goal is to influence their peers to make positive decisions and to remain on the correct path, while becoming successful leaders. There are 60 teens who are part of Impact Teens.

Mayor Chuck Allen said he is very appreciative of the work of the group in the community.

"In an effort to cure violence, it is going to take a culture change. This is not just a Goldsboro issue. This issue is across the country. We have to let our young people know that there is a better way to life and life's promises are countless."

Songs of inspiration were song by Ty Hamer and Jaliyah Davis, followed by the releasing of white balloons.

"As we release these balloons, it is a sign that we want change," Cobb said. "We want peace. We want healing for our community and restoration in our city. White represents new beginnings and safety."

The event ended with a closing prayer by Terry Jones, pastor of City Church of Goldsboro.

"God, we are grateful for this opportunity. We pray your hand to keep these young people. We are here, dear God, to cover our community.

"We ask that you be with each family who are grieving the absence of their loved one. We thank you, Lord, for what you have already done in our community. We know that not only those connected to Impact, but other young people in our community are striving to make a difference. Their success is critical to the success of our community."