Talking with Young People at the Summit on Preventing Youth Violence

April 3, 2012

The following post appears courtesy of Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs.

One of the best things about the 2012 Summit on Preventing Youth Violence—happening this week-- is listening to the participants talk.   These young people, along with their teams of official representatives from Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas and San Jose, are talking about violence they have witnessed and experienced and what they are doing to create positive change in their communities.  Today, these 13 remarkable young people led discussions and recommended steps forward for their cities’ youth violence prevention programs.  

The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention is a place where young and old work together to fix a problem that affects them all.  The forum depends on partnerships at all levels --  federal, state and local -- engaging with the private sector, business and faith and community-based organizations, to design and sustain a new way of facing the challenge and finding the cure for youth violence in America.

Launched in 2010 at the direction of President Obama, the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention brings together the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office on National Drug Control Policy and the six cities. 

The goals of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention are to:

  • Elevate the issue of youth and gang violence;
  • Enhance the capacity of participating localities to more effectively prevent youth violence; and
  • Sustain progress and change by expanding the national conversation about youth violence.  

This year Target Corporation, a new forum partner, provided $60,000 to sponsor one youth from each of the six cities to come to the event, tell their stories and motivate us to act.  We’ve also received wonderfully concrete and practical help from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is partnering with the forum to provide jobs for young people through AmeriCorps and other service programs.

During this second summit, the cities also presented updates to their comprehensive plans to address youth violence.  We’ve also created an online toolkit to help other communities develop their own comprehensive plans to tackle youth violence.

An interim independent assessment of the forum’s work so far gives evidence of encouraging results. The cities are pleased with the progress they’ve made.  This work is not - and will not - be easy.  Forging a new path rarely is.  This is a long-term proposition.  Results won’t come overnight.  But I’m certain that, if we remain focused on our goals, if we’re willing to work through the challenges together, and if we remain committed to a better future for our kids, we’ll emerge from this effort in a stronger and better place.  We just have to keep talking—and listening.