Youths Speak Out on Violence


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood:

Mayor Richard M. Daley spoke at the Hope World event held at Sherman Park on July 30, 2010. Over 2,000 volunteers across the United States attended this event and talked about their efforts to reduce violence in the schools and communities.

RJ's Urban Youth International Journalism student Trevor Hill with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley after the Hope World event at Sherman Park on July 30, 2010. Photo courtesy of Jean Hill

In hope of stopping some of the violence that is taking place throughout Chicago and among Chicago Public Schools students, Daley encouraged the volunteers to continue reaching out to community groups, and to help inspire teens to volunteer and take other steps to make the city a safer place to live.

“The city is working hard to do our part in making our neighborhoods and our students feel safer,” said the mayor.

Nuf-Said is a citywide group of youth media organizations that came together to conduct an online/paper survey and create media around issues that affect youth in Chicago the most.

The results of the survey show violence has affected the community and students in school.

Today’s youths are having trouble with classmates; many said they are either on the run or someone is being killed every day.

Adult and youth volunteers from across the State of Illinois listens to speakers during the Hope World event held at Sherman Park on July 30, 2010. Photo by Trevor Hill

The communities are wondering if today’s violence is linked to conflict in schools and what authority figures are doing about it. Students were asked if a conflict breaks out in school, would they call a police or other person of authority?

Of the students surveyed, 6.4 percent said they would call the authorities and 29.3 percent said they would make the person feel stupid and walk away, while 34.4 percent of the youths surveyed felt going to the authority would make them become a target for others. These days, not all kids are lucky enough to walk away.

Residents of Englewood feel their community is no longer safe. Community members say, “It’s not even safe to go to the store without people trying to fight with you for no reason at all.”

Some would rather not come outside or will come out only for short periods of time.

When students in the community were asked about the causes of youth violence, the students said young people were sometimes angry over things that happened during school.

Others said young people use Facebook and other social networking sites to write stuff about each other. “The next thing you know, they’re out here fighting,” said one student.

With violence the main subject for many at school, others are finding it hard to make the grade.

Most students these days are no longer blaming teachers or a lack of materials.

According to the survey, 67 percent of students feel they get a good education at the school they attend. 93.5 percent of teens feel support from family members makes a big influence in getting a good education, but 96.7 percent of the students said that it’s up to them.

On the other hand, 77.8 percent of students feel school is a place to hang out with friends and 63.5 percent say school is a way to get out of the house.

Some teachers are saying that parents should just stop sending their kids to school if all they are doing is hanging out with friends and being disruptive. Some teachers with long histories at Chicago high schools feel there’s no point in stopping a fight.

Instead, they just let the kids fight. Some wonder why they should stop the fight when they can fight and get the issue off their chests rather than go outside and fight, then hear about the student being killed by gun violence.

Community-based organizations try to show youths there are other things to do besides hanging out all night by offering activities that gain students’ interest instead of putting them in programs that force them to do things they don’t relate to.

An Imagine Englewood If student said, “Media programs help students find a way to use their computer skills to learn how to create blogs and web pages to get money instead of just using the Internet to fight.” 96.1 percent of students believe school is necessary for their future, while 68.1 percent of students feel that after-school programs that they participated in have helped them do better in school.

A lot of youths find negative things to do when there aren’t any jobs or programs.

Students were asked what would be most effective in preventing violence? 38.5 percent of the students feel more jobs and opportunities for youth would work. 16.2 percent of the students feel that more harsh penalties for crimes could help decrease the violence.

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