Salinas, California is one of four STRYVE sites incorporating and adapting the YES program into their community-level violence prevention programs. The following is a Success Story developed for the STRYVE program and describes some of the challenges faced and solutions implemented by youth leaders in the community.
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The city faces many challenges, including poverty and gang violence. One area of Salinas, the Alisal, is particularly affected by many of the risk factors that contribute to violence: truancy, high dropout rates, few resources for after school programs, and a lack of jobs that pay a livable wage. These challenges extend throughout the entire city, contributing to disproportionately high rates of violent crime. In addition, the largely immigrant population, many of whom are undocumented, distrust the police. This May, tensions skyrocketed after the third officer-involved shooting of the year, spurring protests that eventually turned violent.
Public health officials in Salinas have incorporated YES into the city’s STRYVE (Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere) initiative.The YES youth empowerment curriculum is not just about giving young people “a voice” – it provides them with the skills necessary to take action in an adult world.
Staff from the Monterey County Health Department have adapted the YES curriculum to reflect the participants’ culture and ethnic background, especially given the community’s strong ties to its Mexican heritage. For example, they developed an activity that had participants create picket signs with messages drawn from the farm workers’ movement and current conditions in Salinas.
Honk for Peace
Salinas youth participating in the YES program have acted to positively affect their community. After the third officer-involved shooting of 2014, angry residents came out to protest police actions. This spurred one YES participant, 12-year old Briana Sandoval, to take action.
Briana and her YES classmates decided to mount a counter-demonstration of their own. This small group of youth took to the street in front of their community center, holding posters that said, “Honk for Peace.” Later that night, demonstrations in response to the shootings turned violent, leading to another fatality. The following day, when Briana and her classmates resumed their rally for peace, they were joined by 200 residents and community organizers all calling for a peaceful community. The news media covered the children’s protest, and eventually tensions eased.
The YES program has motivated me to do these types of events.
Clearly, the lessons learned from YES on culture and communication with adults influenced Briana’s willingness to take a stand. The Salinas YES participants engaged their peers, adult residents, and community leaders in calling for peaceful solutions. They learned that even as young adolescents, they could make a positive difference in their
STRYVE Success Stories
STRYVE publishes and maintains an archive of Success Stories from CDC programs making a difference in violence prevention. To read and download more Success Stories, visit the archive on the STRYVE website.