The 2002 National Youth Summit on Preventing Violence was held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott from February 16 – 19, 2002 in Washington, DC. Hosted by the National Crime Prevention Council, youth and adults from 43 states and 5 countries attended to gain knowledge on various issues affecting youth crime today. The Summit’s main goal was to change the perceptions of adults who believe that most young people are perpetrators of crime and this was accomplished in numerous ways throughout the Summit.
Thirty-four youth, ages 11-21, from 12 states were selected to be McGruff Ambassadors to help develop policy recommendations in nine crucial areas of concern. The goal of changing the perceptions of young people through powerful policy recommendations was met. These recommendations address issues concerning terrorism, crime prevention basics, school safety, substance abuse, entertainment and prevention, community activism, media, technology crime, and policy as they relate to violence among youth. Developing these policy recommendations was not an easy task; however, after two days of participating in workshops and roundtable discussions, and visiting non-profit agencies related to the issues, the policy recommendations were completed.
The roundtables were most effective because they allowed the youth to discuss their views, perceptions, and ideas on how young people can get involved in the each of the nine track fields of crime prevention. The mega-sessions and off-site visits allowed the young people to get a hands-on experience in each of the nine tracks. For example, the visits to local non-profit agencies encouraged youth involvement in community service. This idea was developed as a service learning technique allowing youth to actively participate in change. The mega-session and off-site visit to the Newseum allowed participants of the media tract to go behind the scenes to see and experience how and why news is made and to participate as newscasters and reporters reliving the greatest news stories of all time. The technology and preventions session went to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to see how new technology is used as a tool and resource to solve crimes against children. They also learned about Internet safety.
Teen Think Tanks of America, Incorporated donated their time and state-of-the-art collaborative technology to enhance the process of gathering, reviewing, and developing the policy recommendations. Through a process of facilitated electronic brainstorming and utilizing a consensus model and collaborative group-decision technology, the 34 Ambassadors were able to capture their thoughts and ideas quickly into an electronic database. They input their problem statements related to each issue, barrier statements on why the problem exists, and then developed solution statements on how the problem can be solved. Once each track group completed inputting this information, policy recommendations were developed. Jim Copple, Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Crime Prevention Council offered the teens assistance as each track team developed their policy recommendations. He also provided a wealth of resource information and was able to offer the teens some guidance in the process of developing the recommendations.
This report presents many recommendations made to the local, state, and federal governments. The primary problem concerning young people today is that they feel that they are not given an opportunity to voice their concerns about their future and truly be heard. The youth voice of today is concerned about issues of new policies being implemented by the various governments that affect youth such as media attention and the regulations placed on the media as well as the entire entertainment industry and the images portrayed and targeted toward young people. Other concerns expressed by the youth include the need for training of young people to deal with issues of terrorism, substance abuse, and peer pressure. In addition young people want to become more involved in their communities and want to have law enforcement and government agencies support through funding for programs, staff to facilitate programs, and technical support to maintain the programs.
Another area of great concern is school safety. Beginning with the various school shootings and the media attention placed on those events, students have become more concerned for their personal safety and the safety of others in and around schools. Since September 11, 2001 even more fear and emphasis has been placed on school safety and security. Youth want to establish safety and security programs, task forces, and networks for youth, policy makers, parents, business professional and others to help keep the schools safe.
According to Anwar el-Sadat, “Fear is … a most effective tool in destroying the soul of an individual—and the soul of a people.” Giving in to fear is giving into terrorism. We cannot prepare for our futures while living in constant fear. Part of the preparations involves equipping our nation’s youth with the requisite skills for making our homes, schools, and communities safe. The Summit Ambassadors, in association with Teen Think Tanks of America, Incorporated, developed twelve proactive initiatives that young people can do in their communities to combat or deal with fear, panic, uncertainty, and confusion related to terrorism. These directives were submitted to and validated by the participants at the Summit and delivered to the Office of Homeland Security. While many of the directives focus on how schools, communities, and youth can work together, government support is needed. One of the most crucial directives developed was that schools and community-based organizations will encourage the establishment of discussion groups utilizing highly experienced professionals to educate teens on issues surrounding terrorism in America. While this is just one example of how young people, communities, schools, adults, and parents, as well as local, state, and federal governments can be proactive and work together, the complete report discusses this example and many more in detail.
At the conclusion of the 2002 National Youth Summit on Preventing Violence, the McGruff Ambassadors read the policy recommendations and the twelve Homeland Security directives to approximately 1,200 participants of the Youth United for a Stronger America March and Rally at Pentagon City Mall. The march and rally proved that young people are doing positive things in their communities.
The Summit brought us together; the march gave us a stand; the rally gave us a voice; we are the most valuable untapped resource in America. It is our challenge to you, our elected officials to lead by example and act upon our recommendations.
2002 Summit Youth Chair
National Youth Summit on Preventing Violence