I just finished reading an editorial in our local newspaper (Daily Press, Feb 19, 2014) written by Steven S. Kast, the President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Virginia peninsula. He referred to the Search Institute’s elements for positive youth development as the keys for preventing and dealing with community violence. I think it is worth revisiting those elements as we think about how to make our communities safer.
1) Provide a safe, positive environment for youth that focus not only on physical and emotional safety, but also on continuity and predictability.
2) Provide a strong sense of belonging and community ownership.
3) Ensure that youth have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships. That is, they feel connected to one or more adults and are able to forge friendships with peers.
4) Ensure that youth have a sense of hope and real opportunities to succeed.
As Kast says, “the time for talk is over. The best practices for violence prevention already exist and need to be replicated”. The choice for investing our resources wisely is obvious: It costs more than $100,00.00 to incarcerate one juvenile for one year, while a community youth center could serve 50 youth for that same investment. It begins by realizing that the solution to youth violence already exists in our communities; we just need passion and a commitment to action to get started!