Philadelphia has been inundated with a wave of violence in recent years: youth violence, gun violence, and an increase in homicides. To better understand the concerns our youth have about these issues and to begin to assess the impact of their exposure to such violence, a letter writing campaign was undertaken with youth ages 12-14. These youth are part of the Young Heroes program at CityYear and are typically middle school students. The youth were asked to describe their vision of a better Philadelphia. They were also asked to explain what they can personally do to improve Philadelphia, and lastly, what newly elected Mayor Michael Nutter can do to improve to city. The letters (n= 78) were subsequently analyzed for content relating to common themes found within the letters. Major themes discovered within a majority of the letters were 1) a sense of helplessness with respect to enacting positive change, and 2) a sense of needing to inform people about the plight of the homeless and impoverished. Many youth called on the Mayor to increase the amount of police officers in the city, indicating a lack of sense of basic security. Many of the youth also exhibited a lack of confidence about their school system, as was suggested by many examples of asking the Mayor to allocate funding for books and supplies. These letters and the findings will be presented to Mayor Nutter at an upcoming press conference (date TBA). Further research should include the collection of more letters from youth across Philadelphia. From this research, programs can be developed that assist our youth in voicing their concerns about the city in a way that captures the attention of leaders, preparing them to make change themselves.
[...] Within the 78 letter sample, a total of 47 references were made to such concepts as donating food or clothing to shelters, building more shelters, equity with respect to food accessibility, and more government assistance for the impoverished. Also, references calling for lower taxes, lower gas prices, and better jobs with better benefits were found. A sense of insufficiency with respect to educational resources was also gleaned from the letters. Concerns regarding inadequate school funding, school budget misappropriation, and a lack of basic supplies such as books were voiced in a total of 35 instances. [...]
[...] According to the Children's Safety Network Economics and Data Analysis Resource Center, both direct and indirect costs of youth violence, as measured by medical expenses, lost productivity, and quality of life, are greater than $158B annually, a tremendous amount of money (2000). Absenteeism from school is another indirect consequence of youth violence. A nationwide survey administered to high school students found that of those who responded reported missing one or more days from school in the preceding thirty days due to feeling threatened or unsafe at school, or on their way there (CDC, 2004). [...]
[...] Conclusion This project aimed to identify the prevailing attitudes and perceptions of our cities youth regarding what can be done to make Philadelphia a better and more wholesome place. Also, this project may very well serve as a vehicle of communication between the cities youthful population, and civic leaders, in the context of being able to identify areas where change and reform are needed. In order to get an even better sense of what the concerns and thought s of Philadelphia's youth are, more letter writing campaigns, akin to the one described, should be undertaken. [...]
[...] (2002). Violence: A Global Public Health Problem. World Report on Violence and Health. World Health Organization (WHO). Geneva, Switzerland. pp 1-21. Glanz, K., Rimer, B.K., Lewis, F.M. (2002). Health Behavior and Education; Theory, Research, and Practice. Wiley and Sons Publishers. San Francisco, CA. Mazza, J. J., Reynolds, W.M. (1999). Exposure to Violence in Young Inner- City Adolescents: Relationships with Suicidal Ideation, Depression, and PTSD Symptomatology. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 203-213. Mercy Butchart Farrington Cerdá M. Youth violence. [...]
[...] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2008). Youth Violence Prevention. Accessed May 2nd Available at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/YVP/YVP- def.htm. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2006). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Available at www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States MMWR (2004); 53(SS02):1–96. Children's Safety Network Economics & Data Analysis Resource Center. State Costs of Violence Perpetrated by Youth. Available at www.edarc.org/pubs/tables/youth-viol.htm Dahlberg, L.L, Krug, E. [...]
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