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Youth Violence Prevention: Getting WA Teens to Sign On

June 1, 2010

SEATTLE - The one group that could most benefit from organized summer and after-school programs turns out to be the hardest to sell on the idea. Accordingly, teens are the focus of a seminar in Seattle this week on how to get them interested in activities to prevent bullying and violence.

Many organizations offer teen programs but have a hard time getting kids to sign up. Bryan Gordon suggests it might be because they're going about it the wrong way. He works with students at Seattle's Cleveland High School, and says posters and school assemblies just don't cut it with today's tech-savvy young people.

"You've got to make the first, initial step in interacting with them and getting them engaged; I don't think it is face-to-face, you know – it's on Facebook or on mass text. And also, if it doesn't come from an adult, if it comes from their peers, is a huge factor."

Bryan Gordon works with the "C:STOP" program, short for "Cleveland: Students Take On Prevention." It's an anti-violence campaign, and Gordon says they approach youth violence as a disease that's contagious.

"You think of violence as like an infection, so how do you treat an infection? And you do that by, like, eliminating the bad stuff in your body - and that could be relationships or attitudes, or drugs, alcohol - any of that stuff that can bring the infection on and escalate it."

According to Gordon, there is a growing body of research that indicates the transition from eighth to ninth grade is a critical time, when teens are especially vulnerable to alienation and the pull of the gang lifestyle, so he says programs would do well to reach out to younger kids.

A recent study by the Wallace Foundation found teen programs do best when they offer a large number of leadership opportunities, and when they are held in locations other than a school. Anyone who offers a youth program can attend the Youth Violence Prevention seminar, which is Thursday, June 3, at the Cleveland High School auditorium in Seattle. Register online at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA