Serious offenses by juveniles are down nearly 10 percent this year in Shelby County. Some numbers are even more encouraging. This year, FOUR minors have been charged with murder; 15 years ago the number was 50. How do we explain this? Why do you think we’re experiencing such a dramatic decline in youth violence? Obviously, a lot of good people have been working to address this issue for years. Give us an example of a person or group or program you know about that deserves some credit. Where do you see people showing their faith in Memphis by addressing youth violence?
Although there is little conclusive data to explain apparent decrease in violent youth crime, we could speculate that the combined effort of a wide range of community-based, faith-based and government-sponsored programs is beginning to have an impact in Memphis. What appears to be different today is not the influence of any one organization but the increasingly holistic approach that is being taken in addressing the community’s problems. Youth violence like many other social problems (e.g., unwed mothers, infant mortality, school dropouts) has multiple contributing causes. No one program can adequately address such a complex phenomenon as youth violence, but a comprehensive approach that addresses the problem from a variety of perspectives is required.
One example of this comprehensive approach is ArkWings Foundation, a faith-based youth development program located in Frayser, an area of special interest for our new District Attorney and her office as they seek to address the problem of violent youth crime. The ArkWings model emphasizes a mind/body/spirit approach to health and wellness for disadvantaged high school students in the neighborhood. The idea is the nurture of the mind through educational endeavors, the body through outdoor activities, and the spirit through a values-based curriculum. The ArkWings urban youth gardening program epitomizes this approach with the garden used as a context for nurturing the whole person, the whole youth, who are often disaffected from society and on the verge of completely dropping out. No single approach appears to be effective by itself but the reinforcement provided through this holistic approach appears to have a cumulative effect that provides disaffected youth with some measure of social stability especially when complemented by other neighborhood initiatives. It is through excellent youth programs such as is being provided by the ArkWings Foundation that we are beginning to see positive outcomes resulting from combined efforts. For more information on the ArkWings Foundation and the difference they are making for our city and the surrounding area, go to www.arkwings.com.