LET'S TALK WITH
hat are teens thinking and saying in the wake of the Columbine High School shootings? Do they have insights into why this is happening and ideas for responding to a situation that seems to be out-of-control?
Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and governors of three other states -- North Dakota, Idaho, and Pennsylvania -- participated in a video conference on youth violence in conjunction with UMDNJ's Violence Institute of New Jersey on Friday, April 30. About 40 teens from central New Jersey who have participated in UMDNJ-University Behavioral HealthCare's (UBHC) Office of Prevention Services programs in their schools took part in the event held on UMDNJ's campus in New Brunswick. High school students from the home states of the governors joined in by video conference. Michael Greene, PhD, executive director of the Violence Institute of NJ, and Paulette Hines, PhD, director of the Office of Prevention Services at UBHC, also participated.
The dynamic exchange of ideas was the start of a closer look at the problem of school violence. On May 17, in an all-day Youth Summit on Violence conducted by the Violence Institute, more than 450 students from 80 high schools around the state gathered on the campus of the College of New Jersey in Trenton. An effort was made to recruit a diverse group with respect to gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, urban and suburban settings, levels and kinds of exposure to violence, and personal perspectives in youth violence from each of the state's 21 counties.
The program had multiple objectives: to help teens identify the central issues involved; to provide a forum for teens to work together to address these issues and present recommendations to policy makers and experts in the field; to provide an avenue for them to express their feelings and ideas through poetry, paintings, drawings and photography; to prepare and publish the day's proceedings; and to lay the groundwork for establishing youth advisory groups in each county. A group of 10 participants -- working with a professional writer -- will publish the day's proceedings and disseminate them widely to school personnel and students statewide, as well as county superintendents' and county executives' offices. These officials will be encouraged to continue to meet with the teens from their county, and to establish an ongoing role for them in policy and program decisions related to youth violence.
Compiled by Merry Sue Baum, Eve Jacobs and Mary Ann Littell
The magazine of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey