Celebrating 15 Years of Positive Youth Development, Focus on Safety & Structure

Safety & Structure is a foundational cornerstone upon which relevant goals are built and represents a critical point of engagement that must be provided to District youth in the summer and throughout the school year in order for a vibrant youth development infrastructure to exist.

As a part of our 15th year anniversary of supporting positive youth development, over the course of the next year, the Trust will highlight each of the District of Columbia’s five citywide goals for youth we developed with our partners. To kick off the summer, in June, we focused on Safety & Structure.

The Trust is sponsoring several of the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) annual Beat the Streets-DC events in support of creating safe communities for our youth and families. The most recent event was held on July 9 in northeast Washington. These events are produced as a celebration that allows police officers and partnering agencies to interact with residents while doing fun activities in a welcoming and safe environment. Beat the Streets supports neighborhood togetherness to dispel violence, improve community relations, and to encourage citizens to live in peace and enhance the quality of their lives.

The Trust defines Safety & Structure as a perception that one is safe in the world and that daily events are somewhat predictable. Our youth should not leave home, go to school, work, and other enrichment activities, or spend time with friends and family in their neighborhoods, not knowing if they will return home safely.

This sense of safety is a basic human survival instinct that many take for granted each and every day. However, youth in communities across the District live with the fear and stress of whether they and their loved ones will survive normal daily activities as simple as walking down the street.

A recent study released on black male achievement by Dr. Ivory Toldson, indicates that young black men are “significantly more likely to feel unsafe in their neighborhoods and had a much more difficult time trusting their neighbors than their white counterparts.”

These concerns hinder the growth and development of our youth, limit their ability to have healthy relationships with others, and often result in their making wrong choices that impact their futures. Whether choosing to be truant from school because of safety concerns, or to arm themselves for protection, or using confrontation as a conflict resolution tool, many youth internalize their trauma; and if left unaddressed, can lead to more long-term serious behavioral, social, and emotional issues.

Our support consists of a range of measurable youth development strategies and outcomes that are driven by the overarching goal to ensure that all D.C. youth will have safe experiences in and out of school. These experiences include the implementation of proven activities that keeps youth out of harm’s way, offset the effects of summer learning loss, and helps them thrive throughout the year.

The Trust funds non-profit organizations that provide youth the opportunities to hone their leadership attributes, develop self-advocacy and conflict resolution skills, gain understanding of the juvenile justice and court systems, and engage in strategies that help identify and reduce detrimental behavior that would limit their ability to have healthy and successful lives.

The Trust also works with District agencies and communities to create healthy and safe environments for youth, in part, through our Advancing Youth Development training for frontline youth development workers and supervisors. Specifically, we have trained Metropolitan Police Department School Resource Officers in order to improve safety and youth-friendly environments in schools.

The impact on District youth is significant and critical. The enduring results of our collaborative efforts lead to lower rates of juvenile violence and arrests, fewer incidents of bullying, and increased school attendance. But more important is that it provides a baseline for character development, school attendance, academic performance, and social and emotional health.

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