Some marched solemnly.
Some sang joyfully.
Some sat in quiet reflection.
All were Job Corps students, all committing to stand up and put an end to violence and bullying in their communities. Last week, Job Corps centers across the country held events to kick off Y2Y Week, the beginning of a national student-led movement to organize and take action to promote a safe and secure learning environment. Youth2Youth: Partners4Peace was conceived by student leaders as way to foster dialogue and propose solutions to youth violence.
At the core of the movement is the idea that young people have enormous power to influence one another and lead change. Many have experienced the devastation that violence can wreak on young lives; they have taken the path to Job Corps to turn their lives around and gain the skills that will lead to a rewarding career. They know that a secure environment that brings out their very best is essential to that success.
Many centers invited guest speakers to the kick-off events, including members of law enforcement and community leaders. In Long Beach, Calif., students heard from Keeyon Layton, a Job Corps alumnus whose son was recently murdered, and his powerful expression of the anguish of the families of young victims. Job Corps National Director Lenita Jacobs-Simmons attended the rallies in Long Beach and Detroit to show the Labor Department’s support for the initiative.
In Prestonberg, Ky., at the Carl D. Perkins Job Corps center, guest speaker U.S. Army Sgt. Shannon Beatty led students in an anti-bullying pledge, and all students agreed to demonstrate leadership qualities by not participating in physical bullying or cyberbullying.
At the Bamberg center in South Carolina and the Springdale center in Oregon, students focused on sexual assault and domestic violence, holding discussion groups among students about how to promote healthy relationships.
As far afield as Alaska, a 12-student steering committee organized a letter writing campaign to spread the message outside the walls of Job Corps and into the community, asking other schools, businesses and youth organizations to pledge their support. One of the Alaska Y2Y leaders, DJ Felder, said, “It’s time for us to take back our culture. It’s time for youth to stand up and say, enough is enough. No more violence. No more bullying.”
Following last week’s activities, student leaders plan to continue to build momentum and help create cultures that promote dialogue and facilitate open communication among students. Monthly events will be held at each center, and students are preparing a set of tools and strategies that can be used in dealing with bullying or aggression.
Students at the Albuquerque Job Corps center launch the Youth 2 Youth Partners 4 Peace campaign, Sept. 18, 2015. Photo credit: National Job Corps Association.
Students march for peace during the launch the Youth 2 Youth Partners 4 Peace campaign at the Atlanta Job Corps Center, Sept. 18, 2015. Photo credit: Lindsay Williams