This past Tuesday, Mat Davis, Kheprw Institute (KI) youth leader, played the master of ceremonies at the Mid-North Quality of Life Plan (QOL) Crime and Safety Action Team youth summit. The summit, which was organized by two community leaders, Dominique and Carlene, focused on the issue of youth gun violence and gun safety. Mat opened by drawing attention to the root causes of youth gun violence: “I think that issues of youth gun violence are symptoms of a larger problem. Young people don’t have constructive outlets for their time and so they make choices that may lead to gun violence.” The Kheprw Institute (KI) was originally asked to participate in the summit by Carlene, who is a resident elder. Paulette Fair, another resident elder, invited Carlene to KI to talk about the importance of youth involvement in the Crime and Safety Action Team, which connected closely with KI’s youth engagement initiatives.
KI centers its events and programming on youth empowerment and plays a key role in the QOL as the lead organization for youth engagement. Acknowledging the importance of activities and programming for youth, such as those held at KI, Mat mentions that, “When I work with youth at the KI EcoCenter I strive to create space for young people to have that constructive outlet.” However, even though this summit was focused on youth involvement in community issues, Mat pointed out that, “I am the only young person speaking at this event and when most adults think about youth engagement this is as good as it gets, but there is so much more that can be done.”
Executive Director of KI, Imhotep Adisa, remarked that, “I normally don’t come out to events like this because I often find that these events don’t really address the core issues our communities face. Today, however, I came to support Mat Davis, one of our youth leaders at KI, who had volunteered to MC this event.” With youth gun violence being an important issue in the Mid-North community, residential involvement, especially youth involvement, needs to play a central role in addressing these issues. Imhotep goes on to further say that, “It was rewarding to find that residential leaders, such as Dominique and Carlene, had the understanding of the importance of youth voice, particularly at an event focused on young people. It’s always refreshing to see young people speaking to the issues that are relevant to their own personal experiences.”
In order to further develop a stronger youth voice in events such as this youth summit, KI further strengthened its commitment to being involved in the QOL plan. Explaining this continued commitment, Mat mentions that, “The KI EcoCenter has been focused on youth engagement since its inception. We have now decided to lend our expertise and experience to the Quality of Life Plan to assist their youth initiatives. Our goal is to broaden the scope of youth engagement work so that adults can create more meaningful experiences for youth.” Imhotep echoed this sentiment: “The Kheprw Institute looks forward to the opportunity to work more deeply with the Crime and Safety Action Team to host an event that is truly youth-led and youth-directed.”