Youth Violence Prevention in Kinston
In the work that Kinston Teens does, we often encounter people who already know a little about our organization. Although they may not know exactly our purpose or mission statement, we're usually welcomed with warm remarks and appreciation for the positive things we do. Nonetheless, we've occasionally met people who believe that we were formed as an effort to "stop the violence" here in Kinston; however, that's not entirely true. In 2014, our city ended the year with 61 reported shootings - with the average age of victims in these shootings being 22 years old, and around that same age for the offenders. Needless to say, our city's young people are affected by this problem.
Kinston Teens has recognized this, and since its inception, has worked towards providing youth with positive alternatives and opportunities through leadership, community service, and civic participation. While these are great initiatives, and can ultimately make a difference in the life of a young person, it's not the sole solution to ending gun violence in our city - and it is why we've never promoted ourselves as a group working to prevent violence. There's truly a lot of work that needs to be done; and not one individual, church, organization, group, nor government agency can do it alone.
That's why in recent weeks, Kinston Teens has worked to compile a list of actions that our entire community can take towards preventing violence, especially among young people. These suggested actions each fall under one of the following six goals:
- Improve recreation and OST (Out-of-School Time) programs.
- Improve education environments to be safe, welcoming and engaging.
- Enhance neighborhood conditions to build pride and improve community perceptions of safety.
- Increase efforts, and the awareness of these efforts, to prevent gun violence – especially among young people.
- Increase youth engagement and promote the voices of youth in decision-making.
- Promote positive opportunities for youth, and connections to mentors and trusted adults.
We look forward to these suggestions being used as an outline for collaborative work between our local government, businesses, nonprofits, youth organizations, health agencies, faith-based groups, and every one else who has a heart for Kinston. Some people may see problems such as gun or gang violence as lofty issues to tackle, however, we believe that with work and cooperation our city can handle it!
In the coming weeks, Kinston Teens will be organizing roundtable discussions and conversations with local leaders and the community to further discuss the steps in this document - and to collaborate on ways to implement the suggested initiatives!