The solution to youth violence: positive youth programs.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The keys to prevention of youth violence are better supervision of youth and providing more constructive activities for them, leaders of an anti-violence effort said here Thursday.
The Rev. Patricia Christ, pastor of Richard Brown Memorial United Methodist Church, said ending the violence will take "a concerted effort amongst those who love the children and then a turnaround in children's lives so they see that there are other options in life.''
"We need to provide places for the children to be and lots of different things to do. We need to have multiple things happening in multiple places around the city that the children can get themselves to,'' she said.
Her church was the site of a sparsely attended meeting sponsored by SONG (Saving Our Next Generation), a nonprofit organization that promotes programs designed to preserve productive and meaningful values in youth.
It was the second in a series of meetings designed to find solutions to the prevalent youth violence in the city. A major focus now is on organizing summer youth programs at a time when the city park department will be limited by the city's financial crisis, said Cecil Monroe, SONG president. "What we're trying to do is to decrease violence by creating positive programs that will keep the kids busy," Monroe said.
The church is already participating in a community effort to beautify Wick Park, which is across Elm Street from the church, and the church provides refreshments at summer music-in-the-park programs there. It also provides free groceries and clothing to needy people on the last Thursday of each month beginning at 9 a.m. The church also has a long history of outreach to mentally disabled people, including those living in North Side group homes.
Another program being launched on the North Side is a little league baseball team that will use Evans Field. That effort is being coordinated by the Rev. Dwight Dumas, pastor of Fifth Avenue Community Church.
Monroe's daughter's, Alyssa, a pupil at St. Edward School, said her greatest fears are "seeing people sell drugs around the community to teens and teens getting shot." As part of the solution, she recommended offering more free summer day camps and a longer city swimming pool season.
Rebecca Banks of Fairgreen Avenue said ending the epidemic of youth violence will take "a lot of parental involvement, community involvement, neighbors looking out for each other, looking out for their children'' and more character education in schools.