Community leaders meet to review gang intervention efforts

YAKIMA - Officials from Educational Service District 105 held a 'Gang Awareness and Next Steps' meeting in Yakima yesterday to review recent gang intervention efforts.

ESD 105 is working to find causes and to answer questions on what to do about gang violence in their schools.

Cathy Kelley, a student assistance program coordinator for ESD 105, said that it's families, schools and communities that need to come together to create an environment that facilitates healthy development of children and adolescents.

The goal, she said, is to harvest healthy behaviors from healthy beliefs and clear standards through opportunity, skills and recognition.

To accomplish this, four domains must be looked at. They are the individual, the family, the schools and the community.

"The more assets kids have the less likely they are to become involved in undesirable behavior," Kelley said.

A survey given to students in Yakima County told educators that beliefs held by children and adolescents about themselves and their abilities are shaped by the extent to which they perceive the adults in their lives care about them and are involved in their lives.

What's important to note is that there is no one solution when addressing gangs, Kelley said.

"When it comes to gang prevention there is nothing out there right now that we know works," she added. "But prevention must be out there."

The communities of Sunnyside and Grandview are working on prevention. Mentoring is a big part of that.

Sunnyside School District Community Relations Coordinator Curtis Campbell said that gang referrals start coming in on students in the sixth grade. The number of referrals sky rocket for grades 7-10 and then taper back off for 11th and 12th graders.

This, he said, shows that the time to begin intervention is in the sixth grade.

Lisa Fairbairn, director of Sunnyside's Promise, said several programs have been implemented in this community to help prevent gang activity. There is the neighborhood beautification project, the graffiti to mural project, a mentoring program and a mechanical skills program.

Already, she said, the group has identified several areas that have been heavily tagged with gang graffiti. Those areas will have murals painted over the graffiti. One project has already been completed.

In Grandview, school board director Paul Jepson said that community has implemented a boxing program that originally targeted gang kids. It's been very successful, he said.

Mentorship programs and a frenzy Friday activities program for students have also had success.

The message being sent seemed to be that while everyone can acknowledge that the gang problem is a cause for concern, the depth or the breadth of the problem has yet to be identified.

The consensus is that more study and a better understanding of who is doing what is still needed.


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