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In January, Indianapolis Public
Schools Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee asked our community – via his blog – to join him in the fight against youth violence.

 

His passionate plea was precipitated
by a message he’d received earlier that morning saying an IPS student was
fatally shot and another 14-year-old male was injured by gunfire. 

 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first
time Dr. Ferebee had received such news.

 

On April 7, the community heeded his
call.

 

Despite frigid temperatures and sleet,
62 supporters – including community leaders and residents  – joined Ferebee and other IPS leaders at New Era Church for our first Community Conversation on Youth
Violence.

 

The conversation began with a video highlighting news clips, which told
the heartbreaking stories of young people in Indianapolis who were either victims
or perpetrators of violence.

 

Tim Nation, executive
director of Peace Learning Center, led the
introduction of Dr. Ferebee and our other esteemed panelists:

 

 

After introductions, panelists and attendees briefly shared their
thoughts on the challenges
facing our students and communities.

 

“There are a lot of people in our community who care deeply about our
youth,” said Hulvershorn, youth
program director for Peace Learning
Center. “We need to help build them an organized path to provide support for
their work.”

 

Guests were invited to select a breakout session among several topics
to discuss factors that impact the violence rate. Topics included:

 

  • Gangs and Drugs
  • Mental Health
  • Youth Employment
  • Parental Engagement
  • Mentorship
  • Youth Involvement
  • Graduation
  • Restorative Practices

 

Participants in each breakout session were passionate about the safety
of our youth, including an engaged group of students who attended from
Arlington Community High
School.

 

“They actually care about our opinions and are going to use our
opinions,” said Jason S., vice
president of Arlington’s Student
Government. “We do have a voice. We do matter. We can offer solutions to the
troubles we face.”

 

In laying the groundwork for
solutions, each guest had unique and
meaningful insights to share.

 

Members of the “Youth
Involvement” group discussed
building the skill

set of students who want to enter the workforce. They also talked
about increasing exposure to a variety of career options.

 

“If young people know they have options, they have hope. And where
they have hope, they have more opportunity to be successful,” said Dr. Ferebee.

 

The “Restorative
Practices” group proposed
that schools designate a special area where students can go when they need to calm
themselves from a stressful situation.

 

During discussions on Parental Engagement, it was also suggested that government
and community leaders incentivize businesses to allow and encourage parents to
spend more time volunteering in schools.

 

“Every child needs to be safe, valued and loved,” said Nation. “What
happens when we don’t do this? Indianapolis is finding out in tragic ways
through the violence in our streets and in our homes.”

 

After the breakout sessions concluded, groups converged to share their
recommendations.

 

The dialogue will continue when IPS shares the takeaways during
another Conversation to be held in May. That’s when IPS will join the
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indiana University’s School of
Public and Environmental Affairs and the Indiana Pacers to discuss the
recommendations and ways to achieve the goals.

 

“Let’s make sure this conversation goes as far as it can; let’s touch
as many young people as possible to ensure our community is better,” said Dr.
Ferebee. “If our community is better and young people are better, then the
quality of life improves for everyone.”

 

IPS will continue ongoing
collaboration with community leaders to ‎advance the efforts discussed at the
meeting.

 

Thanks to the participants
who shared their thoughts and suggestions, thanks to our dedicated session
facilitators and a special thanks to New Era Church for hosting our event.