Columbus Group Creates Program to Help At-Risk Youth

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Through a new city-funded program called the “Parent Enrichment Program,” the Columbus Urban League works with the juvenile justice system.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Efforts continue to address what some are calling a crisis — youth violence.

It’s a growing problem not just here in central Ohio, but across the country.

All neighborhoods are feeling the effects: stolen cars, physical assaults and even murders.

Some believe the solution involves a different approach to give young people their best chance at success.

“Punitive measures don’t work because – what is gained as a community and culture by simply locking people up,” said Javier Sanchez, CEO of REACH Communications, Inc.

Javier Sanchez is on a mission to restore and sustain hope among young people in cities around the world, including Columbus.

“I’ve been involved with Columbus kids pretty much my whole life because I was one,” Sanchez explained.

Over the years, through research and interactions, Sanchez has been able to take the pulse of youth violence.

Adolescents and young children – becoming both victims and perpetrators.

“I think what we’re seeing is disillusionment and despair. If I have no hope, I have no reason to make an effort to do anything else,” Sanchez said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call it a public health concern.

According to the federal agency, homicide is the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 24 and the leading cause of death among non-Hispanic or African American black youth.

Every 24 hours, approximately 15 young people are victims of homicide, often killed by someone barely older than them.

“I am heartbroken every day when it comes to my children,” said Tania Hudson, a worried mom from Columbus.

Tania Hudson knows the pain of losing a child, her two sons were killed just seven years apart.

“We will go to a funeral and mourn together – shouting stop the violence. They don’t know how to do it yet,” Hudson explained.

Javier Sanchez says the problem of violence is multi-layered with many young people struggling with trauma and feeling they have nothing to look forward to.

Often causing them to live in the moment, disregarding the feelings of others and the consequences that flow from them.

“Our challenge is to get the adults who are in the lives of these young people to recognize the value of these young people and to invest in them. Sanchez said.

That’s exactly what the Columbus Urban League does.

“We know that if we can stabilize our families, we can stabilize our youth,” explained Stephanie Hightower, president and CEO of the Columbus Urban League.

Through a new city-funded program called the “Parent Enrichment Program,” the Columbus Urban League works with young Ijustice system – to help direct at-risk youth away from the courtroom.

“I appreciate that we have judges who don’t just want to lock the kids up and throw away the key. That they want to give them that second chance and that opportunity,” Hightower said.

The new eight-week program takes a different approach to many others, requiring parents to be involved in order for the teenager to stay enrolled.

Create a safe environment for families to deal with underlying issues such as trauma, with resources and professionals aimed at setting them up for success.

“Hopefully you’ll probably see them being Ohio State’s next football player, they’ll be the next architect, or they could be the next mayor,” Hightower said.

The new program with the Urban League is expected to begin next month. The initial objective is to help nearly 100 miners.

Meanwhile, Sanchez is working on programming efforts with the Columbus Neighborhoods Department and My Brother’s Keeper.

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