Youth violence organizers hope to make a difference
by Lori Caldwell 648-3258 or email@example.com April 22, 2012 11:30PM
Updated: May 24, 2012 8:06AM
GARY — Teenage girls having babies, boys dropping out of school to stand on street corners, their younger siblings ready to follow the same path — how can a day-long session on youth violence fix all that?
“If we just reach one or two and send them away with a positive message, then we’ve made a difference,” Gary police Lt. Lawrence Wright said.
The fifth annual Youth Violence Prevention Conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, May 11, at Indiana University Northwest.
Students, parents, educators, community leaders and others will spend the day listening and talking about ways to inspire young people on a path to success.
The conference is sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana and Community Organizations for Families and Youth (COFFY).
“Our children are our precious treasure. We have not done what we need to do to make sure they have quality of life,” Wright said.
The Rev. Michael L. Pfleger of Faith Community of St. Sabina church in Chicago and Muhibb Dyer, a Milwaukee community activist and writer, are the two keynote speakers scheduled to address the conference.
Pfleger is an outspoken activist who rails against the sale of drug paraphernalia in his neighborhood stores and other symptoms of a decaying society.
He led an anti-violence march last month as the details of Trayvon Martin’s death unfolded.
“The loss of life has been excessive and crazy,” Wright said. Children who grow up surrounded by violence often fail to see their own potential.
“The level of denial is extremely high,” Wright observed. Domestic violence sends the wrong message to young people, affecting their behavior and self-esteem and preventing them from setting and reaching personal goals.
Dyer provides the perspective of a young man growing up without love and guidance.
His play, “From Kings to Thugs to Presidents,” is a story of urban life aimed at encouraging young people to make a better future for themselves.
“It’s all about choices,” Wright said.
Dyer also conducts motivational seminars and workshops for youths in the Milwaukee Public Schools.
“We adults have the responsibility to step up and do better for our children,” Wright said.
More information about the conference is available by calling Martin Marcus at the Boys and Girls Club, 881-1060, ext. 416.