I have been living in the City of Springfield since the mid 1980’s. It is not a secret that we have been experiencing an increase in youth related violence. The Springfield Police even has a gang task force. What we do not have is enough people willing to give young people a “second” chance. However, we do not give them a first chance to begin with. We do not support any positive youth development programs that allow participants the time and space to plan activities of interest, problem solve, and develop leadership skills. Anything that is youth driven makes adults uncomfortable and highly suspicious. We lack strong young leaders because we want nothing to do with giving them a chance to develop those skills in a safe encouraging environment. There are very few positive youth development activities taking place in our neighborhoods. Youth are often misled to join gangs only to then realize that it is not a productive way to live their lives and earn an honest living. Unfortunately for many of them the realization happens once they have already been charged or convicted for a misdemeanor or a felony. Once they have gotten into trouble and are convicted for a crime, they have even less of a chance to get involved in anything that will enhance their development into healthy, responsible and productive adults. I know first hand how incredibly difficult it is to obtain employment with as much as a misdemeanor on record. I have met numerous young men with a wealth of knowledge and life experience. If someone would just give them a chance, they could leave the past behind and move on to become responsible citizens. In spite of that, they are unable to get passed a job application. They are not given an opportunity to work and earn a living. How discouraging is that. We ought to be interested in CORI reform and supportive of youth-driven programs that prepare youth to make proud choices and gives them a sense of belonging and ownership before they get into trouble. This is the only way that we can reduce and eventually eliminate the problem of youth violence.
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