This is the first in a series of guest posts researched and written by five summer interns with the DPH Youth Violence Prevention Program. Their names are (l to r) Sanjay Raju, Lisandra Carranza, Amy Nwaobasi, Joseph Fox, and Imani Cosby.
Have you ever taken a look at your community and wished for change? This is the story of some young people in one neighborhood of Boston who did just that – and then took positive steps to make that change happen.
Mission Hill is a small section of Boston with one of the largest youth and Latino populations in the city. The community faces challenges such as poverty, unemployment, and crime. What’s more, turf tensions have risen over the years contributing to youth violence and a divide in the community.
With all this happening, some young people in Mission Hill felt they needed to find a place to make their voices heard to help find solutions to problems in the community.
Working in partnership with a number of community-based organizations, Sociedad Latina created the program Youth NOISE – also known as Youth Neighborhood Outreach for Inner Street Empowerment – a youth-led program to help reduce violence and promote youth development.
With the help of community partners ABCD Parker Hill/Fenway Neighborhood Service Center, Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH), Phillips Brooks House, and Tobin Community Center, fifteen young people were hired and trained as peer leaders.
Youth NOISE Peer Leaders (l to r) Merismar Isabel, Hiram Colon, and Sadie Ramsey
At the program, activities such as Fusion Arts, Community Garden, and other youth events help get children of all ages involved. Fusion Arts features music, games, health information, and fitness activities. Community Garden lets youth grow their own fruits and vegetables as part of a “sugar-free summer” to promote a healthy community. The program also promotes a strategy called “Racial Healing” to help young people understand and appreciate differences in their community.
The program has helped the community improve in a lot of ways. There has been a decrease in violence and a better relationship between the youth and the police. Also, the program has helped to reduce turf tensions that were a problem a couple of years ago. As a result Mission Hill as a whole has since felt more united. The program serves as a safe place for the youth of Mission Hill. It’s a place where they can go to after school and during the summer time. However, they face the same challenges as so many other community-based organizations in these tough economic times. As a result, the program is not able to be advertised enough and is not capable of hiring a lot of peer leaders.
Youth NOISE encourages development, family involvement and social change. The program helps young people in the community to express their concerns, their interests, and their solutions. Participants report that they feel a sense of personal growth, a more positive attitude, a stronger belief in their community, and the sense that with faith and perseverance they can make a change.
This program is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Youth Violence Prevention Program within the Child and Youth Prevention Unit.