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Community Leaders and City Officials Address Youth Violence:

Youth employment programs and a teacher Home Visit Program took center stage as concrete strategies when about 100 people gathered on a Tuesday evening, January 30, at St. Anne’s Church and Shrine to address youth violence in Santa Monica and surrounding communities.

The town hall meeting was organized by LA Voice, an interfaith community organization that works for safer neighborhoods, among other goals. A heavy contingent from Santa Monica city government actively contributed.

The forum was a follow-up to a September 17, 2006 gathering which faith community organizers had billed as a “regional response to youth violence” following in the wake of several incidents in Santa Monica and across the Westside. New participants at the January 30 forum included the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and First Baptist Church of Venice.

Jim Lynch, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, offered the Chamber’s resources in finding jobs for young people and in assisting youths in resume preparation, interview training and the other tools necessary to find and hold jobs. LA Voice Executive Director Jared Rivera later commented to the Mirror that he was particularly pleased to have the Chamber on board.

Mayor Richard Bloom and Councilmember Bob Holbrook addressed the forum, as did school board vice president and Pico Youth and Family Center Executive Director Oscar de la Torre; Councilmembers Ken Genser and Pam O’Connor attended, as did City Manager P. Lamont Ewell.

Police Chief Tim Jackman, on the job for only six weeks, took this “first opportunity to talk to the community in a setting like this,” and emphasized the importance of education and jobs – “staying in school to obtain meaningful employment. Eighty percent of the people in state prison are illiterate,” he said. He added that he “would like to work myself out of a job” by eliminating crime to the extent possible.

The meat of the strategic agenda for mounting a vigorous, concerted, regional approach to the lethal dangers of youth violence were reports by St. Anne’s parishioners and LA Voice representatives Josefina Santiago and Ana Maria Jara on a Youth Training Program to improve employment and a Home Visit Program whereby teachers could visit their students’ homes to build a relationship between school and family.

In this same concrete vein, Scott Wasserman, Human Services Administrator for the City, reported on the “Pico Initiatives” at Virginia Avenue Park, particularly the Night Bridges program funded by the federal Department of Justice which allows park programs to function many more hours each week into evening hours.

St. Anne’s parishioner Mike Ward guided the evening through invocations and calls to action by Pastor Frank B. Cathrill from Phillips Chapel CME Church of Santa Monica; St. Anne’s Zelia Mollica and Sergio Rodriguez, who called for a moment of silence to recognize the December 27 murder of 22-year-old Miguel Martin; Humberto and Isabel Sanchez of St. Agatha’s Church in Los Angeles; Pastor Horace Allen of First Baptist Church of Venice; and Fr. Mike Gutierrez of St. Anne’s.

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