On April 19, 2012 Mayor Slay convened the Commission on Children, Youth and Families for their second quarterly meeting of the year. The Commission met at St. Louis Community College- Forest Park. The meeting began with the introduction of two new Commission Members: Mr. Tom Santel of BJC and Rev. Starsky D. Wilson of the Deaconess Foundation.
During the Mayor's Commission on Children, Youth and Families meeting in early February Commission Members engaged in a lively discussion led by Mayor Slay that focused on issues of youth violence in the City of St. Louis and included topics such as child abuse and neglect, the "knockout game", and issues of positive youth development and empowerment. The April meeting of the Commission aimed to build on that momentum and further examine the issue of and solutions to youth violence.
In late March of 2012 Commission Members Bridget McDermott Flood, Robbyn Wahby and Starsky Wilson, along with other community partners, had the opportunity to travel to Memphis, Tennessee to learn about Memphis's comprehensive approach to addressing youth violence. Bridget McDermott Flood debriefed the Memphis trip for the Commission.
From her presentation the Commission learned that the Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan is a product of Operation: Safe Community which is an initiative of Memphis Fast Forward. The Memphis Youth Violence Prevention Plan focuses on prevention, intervention, enforcement, and re-entry. Bridget outlined some of the most effective strategies Memphis has implemented to address these focus areas in her presentation. She also detailed key elements that have made this plan successful which include the alignment of existing programs and organizations, the need for strong leadership, the role of transparency, the power of data and measurable outcomes, and the standard of accountability. These elements were reinforced by the other Commission Members who were also on this trip. To view Bridget's PowerPoint presentation click here.
As a direct result of the Memphis trip the Mayor's Office received an invitation to the National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence hosted by the National Forum on Preventing Youth Violence in Washington D.C. Mayor Slay asked Commission Member Rev. Starsky Wilson and Ms. Heidi Veron of the Saigh Foundation to represent the City of St. Louis at this summit. Starsky Wilson debriefed the Washington, D.C. trip for the Commission.
Rev. Wilson began his presentation by providing background information on the National Forum on Preventing Youth Violence which was established by President Obama in 2010. Starsky outlined the goals of the Forum, the six federal agencies that participate in the Forum, the three operating principals that guide the work of the Forum, and the six communities that are currently a part of the Forum which are Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas, and San Jose.
The Summit included more than 250 participants from the Forum cities, government agencies, community and faith-based organizations, private partners, the philanthropic community and the White House. Representatives from select non-Forum cities were invited as well. The Summit included reports from the six Forum cities on their progress and results, a number of skill building sessions, and the launch of the website www.findyouthinfo.gov. During the Summit the Forum announced that they want to expand to four new cities. Starsky confirmed that the City of St. Louis will be invited to apply to become a Forum city and Mayor Slay confirmed his commitment to this process. To view Starsky's PowerPoint presentation click here.
Between the February and April meetings of the Mayor's Commission on Children, Youth and Families events occurring in the City of St. Louis and across the region have once again illustrated the need for the City and the broader community to work together to address issues of youth violence and positive youth development. Specifically, the events occurring in the Delmar Loop the last weekend of March that involved a "flash mob" of youth and gun violence prompted the Mayor's Office to take action.
The Mayor's Office contacted UNITY (Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth) to learn what approaches are being effectively used in other cities to address occurrences such as those that happened in the Loop. UNITY assembled a team and provided numerous recommendations to the Mayor's Office. The recommendations included engaging youth in defining the problem and solutions, interrupting the pattern of violence, ensuring suppression strategies include best practices for prevention, and connect to a broader, long-term strategy. To view the UNITY memo in its entirety click here.
As proposed next steps for the Commission regarding youth violence Mayor Slay announced that he is establishing a Youth Violence Task Force and that Commission Members Bridget Flood and Starsky Wilson will serve as the Chairs of that Task Force.
To wrap up the meeting Bridget Flood gave a presentation on the St. Louis Youth Jobs Pilot Project. This pilot project will be taken on by the Youth Violence Task Force and aims to create 100 jobs for city youth by the start of summer 2012. Bridget has been communicating closely with Commission Member Michael Holmes, executive director of SLATE, on this pilot project. If you are interested in providing an employment opportunity for a youth this summer please contact Bridget Flood. To learn more about this pilot project and to view Bridget's PowerPoint presentation click here. To learn about the youth employment efforts of SLATE and to view the PowerPoint presentation (that we ran out of time for!) prepared by Mike Holmes click here. Lastly, to view the YouTube video that Bridget was unable to show us at the April meeting due to technical difficulties that poignantly illustrates the power of providing youth with community employment opportunities click here.
The next meeting of the Mayor's Commission on Children, Youth and Families will be on Tuesday, September 18 at 8:30 AM.