YMCA of Metro Chicago YSVP Executive Director, Eddie Bocenegra (right), celebrates with Urban Warrior youth at the culminating graduation ceremony.
The Y’s commitment to violence prevention grows out of our driving concern to help young people live more stable, fulfilling lives. Based on growing bodies of research, we know that chronic exposure to traumatic stress places thousands of Chicagoland youth at risk of PTSD, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, sleep disturbance and somatization. Left untreated, these symptoms can lead to engagement in maladaptive coping mechanisms and behaviors such as drug use, academic failure, self-harm, bullying, gang involvement, incarceration, and early death. This is why we have made violence prevention one of our four mission anchors, along with academic readiness, character development, and fitness and healthy living.
Every year, an estimated 46 million children in the United States are exposed to violence, abuse, crime or another form of psychological trauma. This is a widespread and persistent challenge in American life, affecting all ethnic and racial groups, as well as all cities, suburbs and rural areas. However, childhood and adolescent exposure to violence is especially pronounced in Chicago, where the shooting of public school students is a regular occurrence, the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center has over 5,000 admissions annually, and 16% of teens report attempting suicide, the highest rate in the country. Importantly, similar challenges are growing in many Chicago suburbs, where poverty rates have been on the rise for over a decade.
Our approach to violence prevention is designed to reduce this cycle of harm, mobilizing what Dr. Bruce Perry has called the fundamental power of rhythm and relationships. Our programs are designed to purposefully develop trusting relationships between youth, mentors, staff and community experts. We move towards this vision by working to reduce adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), building community protective factors and strengthening human resiliency to help build protective skills and channel negative experiences into opportunities to give back to ones community. Importantly, the Y’s commitment to violence prevention represents an evolution of our decades-long work with those youth at the highest risk of both violent victimization and the perpetration of violent acts.
It is only through support from our foundation and corporate partners and private donations that we are able to do this important work. Please support our cause.
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