The Youth Haven, a New Haven based project committed to promoting community outreach to combat gun violence, held an anti-gun violence congress on Dec. 7 at Gateway Community College in Room N100. Youth Haven works in conjunction with the New Haven Family Alliance and the New Haven Community Health Violence Group. Several Gateway faculty and staff are active members, including Humanities professor and liaison, Carol Brutza, who teaches peace and conflict studies.
Keynote speakers included President of Gateway Community College, Dr. Dorsey Kendrick, New Haven Mayor Elect, Toni Harp, and Superintendent Garth Harries. In preparation of the congress, high school students from the New Haven area held weekly meetings at New Haven Family Alliance to plan break out sessions for students and propose speakers and presenters.
Cecil Estes III, a junior at Co-op Arts and Humanities High School who has been involved with Youth Haven since May said, “It’s important for us to get different perspectives so we can create a real dialogue about gun violence. Engaging the youth of New Haven is key to ensuring a better community in New Haven.”
Gabriel Hayes, a sophomore from Milford, said he became involved with Youth Haven to “create positive change and make a real impact." Haynes also spoke of gaining new insight into adult perspectives on the most useful weapons against violence. “One man in my focus group said the best way to fight violence was to spread the love.” With most adults eager to assign blame to someone or something, “I just didn’t expect him to say something like that. Something so simple but true.”
To prepare for the event, students ran focus groups on the root causes of gun violence and how to combat them. According to coordinator Richard Bryant, the congress allows students to gather forms of data from the Q&A so that they can move forward with creating a prevention model. According to Students in attendance were able to fulfill five hours of their community service requirement.
The Break Out sessions were led by Youth Ambassadors Monica Bryant, Cecil Royal Estes, Lyasia Foresyth, Gabriel Haynes, Tiffany Lawrence, Capricia Marks, Miguel McLauren and Montell Wright.
Gateway student and volunteer Shaniequa Brown said, “I sat in on the Family, Guns and Violence presentation facilitated by Youth Ambassador Miguel McLauren and Co-facilitated by Steven Driffin (Youth Services Specialist for City of New Haven). I found this session to be very interesting and informative."
She continued, "I was shocked to witness the dialogue of these teens. They were respectful, thoughtful and insightful in their responses. They each made valid points and were able to support facts regarding their responses. This occurred during both sessions. All the teens participated in the conversations and some even clarified some of the facts presented in the presentation. I would definitely like to be apart of this event next year.”
Additional break-out sessions focused on media and violence and healthy relationships, among others. Other Gateway student volunteers included several members of the DARC Club: Bill Nelson, Mark Stevenson, Shaniequa Brown, Katheleen Callahan, Anthony Streater, Brittany Procaccini, Angelica Madarriaga (Human Services) and Jenny Bermeo (General Studies).
Faculty members who provided tremendous support were Jonah Cohen from Human Services and James Brogan from Humanities.
The Youth Haven event was sponsored by the National Institute of Health, The New Haven Family Alliance, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars and Gateway Community College.