The city now has a small army of high school students ready to spread the message of proper decision-making and nonviolence among youths.
More than three dozen students from seven Youngstown-area high schools spent several days at a Camp Fitch seminar learning various methods of good decision- making, stopping violence and making a difference in the community.
The 43 students returned to the city Friday and shared with city leaders their plans for taking the message of nonviolence to the community. The students, all members of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence youth-intervention program, met with Mayor Charles Sammarone, police Chief Rod Foley, DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff, and members of council.
Guy Burney, program director, said the students were taken from Summit Academy, Life Skills, Youngstown Early College, Chaney, East, University Project Learning Center and Youngstown Christian high schools. He said the key is to make students understand the importance of the decisions they make.
“More than anything, I want them to take away from this better decision-making skills,” he said. “If we can empower young people to make better choices, they are going to be a lot less likely to be in those negative situations.”
Students from Chaney and Youngstown Christian plan to start mentoring programs for younger students to learn from their example. Timothy Sharp, Chaney High School, said the idea is to spend some time with small groups of students each week.
“Hopefully, they get a good feel from us and spread that feeling around the rest of the school,” he said.
Students from the other schools involved in the program plan to have pep rallies and other events at school to engage their peers in discussions about nonviolence and making good choices.
For some students, such as Keyshawn Johnson from East High School, the program was a personal life-changing experience.
“Before this program, violence played a nasty role in my life,” he said. “When I got to this program, it changed me and taught me a lot of things I needed to know to make me a better person.”
Foley told the students they are an important part in stopping violence in the city. He encouraged them to take what they have learned and become leaders.
Sammarone echoed the chief’s comments, telling the students they have the ability to influence their peers in a major way.
“My experience in the schools has been that students can play an important role in helping other students,” the mayor said.
Trevail Smith, Youngstown Early College, said the program has shown him how to be a better leader to those in his peer group.
“It was a privilege to be part of something positive for young people. ... Before coming to this conference, I already considered myself to be a leader, but after this conference I learned to be a better leader,” he said.