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First Ever Youth Summit on the Criminalization of Youth

On February 23rd the IOC (Impacting Our Community) Ames/Eleve8 Student Leadership Team put on their first Youth Summit on the Criminalization of Youth. The IOC, which is composed of Ames students, planned for several months for this event which focused on the issues that many teens are facing throughout their communities.

Teens to Men is a wonderful program at Ames/Eleve8 after school program that focuses on equipping young men with the resources to be self-sufficient individuals and is led by Mr. Cody Spencer. They started the event by honoring the many African Americans of our nation’s past and present that have had a powerful impact not only on our nation but on the world.

The event continued with a video highlighting how the media portrays youth as criminals. Countless news sources depicted youth as out of control, drug users/sellers, and violent criminals. Youth were then led to workshops where they learned how some media target and influence youth in a negative way, how to be a leader within your community/school, youth within the justice system, and know your rights. Facilitators for these workshops included BUILD, Youth Outreach Services, LSNA, and Detective Damian Reyes.

Dramatic poems by Cody Spencer and Eneal Pickett provided a smooth transition into a very informative and enlightening panel discussion. The invited panelists were Mr. Hoffman, principal of Ames, David Osorio and Adrian Hernandez from BUILD, Jose Chamorro, a youth from IOC Leadership Team, and Detective Damian Reyes. In this discussion facilitated by IOC Leadership Team, youth were allowed to ask questions of the panelists regarding the criminalization of youth. Throughout the discussion youth were engaged and asked tough questions to which the panelists gave concrete answers. The highlight of the discussion was Jose Chamorro when asked what gave him the motivation to be a leader. He responded, “I choose to be a leader. I think about what could happen in the future because of my decisions and I must make good decisions.”

This is one of many strategies that IOC has planned to use to address the issue of the criminalization of youth. We commend the youth for taking initiative and making a difference in their school and community. We look forward to their next event which will be geared towards parents at Ames Middle School.

IOC youth participants include Luz, Bianca, Jose, Daniel, Jacqueline, Abel, Ana, Vanessa, Priscila, Ismael, Erik and Itzayana.