On Thursday, Akon [click to read] visited Poughkeepsie, New York to speak to high school students about gun violence. Just a week and a half prior to his appearance, his protégé, Dolla, fell victim to gun violence. The 21-year old up and coming rapper was shot and killed in a Los Angeles mall on May 18 [click to read].

“He was a good kid,” Akon said, calling the tragic incident “a very senseless crime.”

According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, Akon appeared in front of roughly 50 Poughkeepsie High School students as part of Mayor John Tkazyik’s effort to reduce the use of guns among the youth. His appearance also went toward community service hours he was ordered to carry out due to an ’07 incident in which he threw a fan offstage at a KFEST concert [click here to read].

In 1998, Akon was convicted for felony handgun possession. “At the time I thought I was doing it for protection,” he said. “Imagine if I had used it. I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you. There’s no turning back from that. That one little moment affects everybody.”

Students, who took pictures with Akon after the event, reacted positively to the singer’s message. “I thought he was inspirational,” junior Kadeem Davis said. “He seemed sincere and remorseful” about his past.

Poughkeepsie has experienced its fair share of gun violence with 23 shootings last year and 15 already this year. In the next few days, Akon will speak out against gun violence on local radio stations.

“It just feels great that you can make a mistake and be forgiven for it,” Akon said. “I just encourage [the youth] to do the right thing at the end of the day.”