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A group of concerned citizens dedicated to improving the quality of life of Evanston youth has formed the organization Destiny Bridge Builders. They are concentrating in particular on the transition from middle school to high school to young adulthood. Their goal is to positively impact youth through mentoring, education, skill-building sessions and discussion groups that focus on topics relevant to young people’s lives.

On April 7, the organization hosted a joint workshop for Evanston youth and parents to give the youth a safe space to voice their thoughts, feelings and questions about violence in Evanston. Youths gathered in one room, the adults in another. The groups discussed not only the problem of violence but ideas for addressing contributing factors such as racial tension, mistrust between law enforcement and community members and young people’s feeling excluded from community decision-making processes.

A licensed clinical social worker and DBB member facilitated the youth/young adult panel. A local police officer and active member of the Problem Solving Team from the Evanston Police Department also participated. Each panelist shared a story of his/her own experience with violence, which led to questions and concerns from the audience about violence in Evanston. Some of the young people in attendance felt confident and safe enough to share their own stories about the effects of violence and their feelings of segregation at Evanston Township High School.

After the workshop, many young people expressed their appreciation for the chance to voice their opinions and feelings on a topic that is rarely discussed in an open forum. They could walk away feeling more empowered, knowing their voices were heard.

The community speakers for the adult workshop included Kevin Brown, Director of Youth and Young Adult services for the City of Evanston, and Officer Ed Gregory of the EPD’s PST. With parents and other adults, they discussed the root causes of violence in Evanston and what is being done about it. The consensus was that providing jobs so young people have less idle time would do the most to decrease the potential for violence. Participants look forward to pursuing additional strategies to reduce violence in their city.