Attention must be paid to youth violence

Christine Grimaldi’s article (“Parents’ Support Enlisted in Battle Against Gangs,” Tri-Town News, Jan. 18, 2007) brought to light an important and growing issue of concern to Jackson residents.

Gangs, and more importantly, the youth violence that results from the influence of gang culture, are public health issues that affect everyone in the community. While parent education is a positive first step to a solution, it is not all that is needed to prevent youth violence from affecting Jackson residents.

Fifteen years ago, our former president Bill Clinton acknowledged the need for society-wide, ongoing interventions to stem the violence that is spread throughout our country. And yet, research on these programs is still in its beginning stages. But what information we have suggests that preventing youth violence involves more than just parent awareness.

Preventing youth violence happens at home, in the classroom and in the community. We need to teach children how to be effective communicators and independent problem solvers. Mentoring programs for at-risk children, spending quality time with family, and being engaged in after-school activities are healthy and safe options to gang activity and violent behavior.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently funding many research projects that are exploring ways to prevent youth violence. One of these programs, Youth Empow-erment Strategies for Peaceful Communities (YES), takes an active role in developing important leadership and cooperative skills in teens, and, with the support of the community, allows these future leaders to design and carry out a project that will enhance their environment.

This program creates a sense of pride in community, benefits the entire population and imbues the youth with skills that will stay with them for a lifetime. It appears to be well worth the time and effort for Jackson to consider instituting such a program into our community.

Heather Y. Brohm