The Times is to be commended for its coverage of youth gang wars. Progress in prevention and elimination of root causes of youth violence is painfully slow, but we can't turn our backs on it or the community agencies struggling to address this enormous problem.
Over the past several years, I have had the rewarding experience of chairing United Way's Youth Violence Reduction Project, which is helping to give elementary school children the strength they need to resist peer pressure to join gangs.
This strategic project to integrate public and private sector efforts received $480,000 in United Way venture funding for three pilot communities: Pasadena/Altadena; South-Central Los Angeles, and San Pedro/Harbor area. Local leadership from business, education, criminal justice, social services and the media worked to tailor character-building programs to develop self-sufficiency, and parent education programs that alert adults to signs of gang, drug or delinquent behavior.
They have been very successful. We are seeing dramatic changes in attitude by children who have "graduated" from anti-gang classes better equipped to say no to gang involvement. The curriculum stimulated by seed money has been instituted in grades 4, 5 and 6 of all schools in pilot areas. Grants from the Office of Criminal Justice Planning have helped these programs gain permanency.
United Way Youth Violence