Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 04th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Talk to the Kids

news2Upcoming conference addresses youth violence in Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County is the second smallest county, geographically, in California. Yet, in 2011, it ranked 10th in the state for youth homicide rates, according to a study done by the Violence Policy Center.

This statistic is representative of a trend of youth violence many in the county have observed through anecdotal evidence—from the gunman inside Secret Garden Too preschool in 2010 to the 18-year-old young man killed outside a Pajaro Valley High School soccer game in Watsonville earlier this year, many feel it is increasingly true that Santa Cruz County youth are not as safe as they should be.

On Friday, Aug. 16, a group of educators, law enforcement officers, local organizations, and Santa Cruz County youth themselves will come together to address this issue, and try to make change. Turning the Curve on Youth Violence, a conference put on by the county’s Criminal Justice Council (CJC), comes after an initial community-wide summit on youth violence held last November, which kicked off a year-long assessment of the different factors contributing to and involved with youth violence.

The results of the assessment, which involved tactics as varied as police ride-alongs and peer-to-peer community safety surveys, will be released this coming November. Although they do not have all of their information compiled yet, Megan Joseph, director of community organizing at United Way of Santa Cruz County and a key player in putting together the event, says the conference comes at the perfect time.

“This was the right timing where we’re winding down on the assessment phase and looking to put a strategic plan together,” says Joseph. “We [will] hear from both local experts and people from the Bay Area and national experts who are already on the ground and doing things that are working that we could do here in our area. We hope that people will get excited about putting the plan together and become part of that process.”

Speakers at the conference include local teachers and law enforcement officials, national experts, and members of the Santa Cruz and Watsonville Youth City Councils. Some of these young people will speak as leaders in their community, while others will share their own personal stories related to youth violence. Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Michael Watkins says he’s most excited about the broad, preventive approach the conference will take.

“These kids don’t start gang-banging at 13 or 14. They start earlier than that, when they’re not far past preschool,” says Watkins. “If we’re going to be successful, we need to bring all the stakeholders to the table. We decided [to] start the school year off by taking a positive approach and bring everyone together in solving these problems.”

Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano, who serves as chair of the CJC, echoes Watkins’ appreciation for the conference’s broad approach, and says that’s a strength one can find in both the CJC and in the county’s method for addressing youth violence as a whole.

“We want to start as young as we can, which is why we’re inviting a lot of educators to this conference to learn from others that have tried other types of programs,” says Solano. “We’re doing quite a bit in our county that is unique and forward-thinking, but we always know we can do better and that’s what we want to do with this conference.”

One of those effective programs already in place, Solano says, is Valor, a collaboration between Pajaro Valley School District and Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, Inc. Valor focuses on finding students who are going down the wrong path early, and working to prevent this using a counseling model that involves the student’s entire family.

“The long-range benefits will be not just for that particular youth, but for their siblings that are also seeing that behavior and having it modeled before them,” says Solano.

It’s these types of methods and programs Solano hopes to see come out of Turning the Curve on Youth Violence. He says that violent crime in general is on the rise is Santa Cruz County, but it’s difficult to isolate data particularly pertaining to youth—another problem the CJC, which was reinstated in 2012 after a nine-year hiatus, helps to correct.

“We all work together,” Solano says, in reference to the law enforcement and educators who make up the CJC. “Because of that, we do know each other very well, but that doesn’t help the fact that our data systems couldn’t really talk to each other [before the CJC was reinstated] to get a good read on how we’re doing as a county. It was really just a guess sometimes.”

Solano says things have been much smoother since the CJC’s reinstatement, and the upcoming conference serves as an example of what can happen through collaboration. There’s one contingent that Solano, along with everyone else interviewed for this article, is most excited about working with.

“What makes this really promising to me is that we have not missed out on involving youth,” he says. “In my 30 years, I’ve never seen us involve youth to this degree, and it’s really cool. We’re always the ones to say what the youth need, but who better to tell us what youth need than the youth themselves?”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Making a Scene

As it celebrates its 30th year, Santa Cruz County’s Open Studios is one of the most successful in the country—and a make-or-break event for many local artists


A Ritual & Initiation

The Pope has come and gone, but his loving presence ignited new hope and goodness in many. While he was in NYC, China’s ruler arrived in Washington D.C. East (China) and West (Rome), meeting in the middle, under Libra, balancing sign of Right Relations. The Pope arrived at Fall Equinox. Things initiated at Fall Equinox are birthed at Winter Solstice. The Pope’s presence was a ritual, an initiation rite—like the Dalai Lama’s visits—offering prayers, teachings and blessings. Rituals anchor God’s plan into the world, initiating us to new realities, new rules. The Pope’s presence brings forth the Soul of the United States, its light piercing the veils of materialism. The Pope’s visit changed things. New questions arise, new reasons for living. A new wave of emerging life fills the air. Like a cocoon shifting, wings becoming visible. The winds are different now. Calling us to higher vision, moral values, virtues that reaffirm and offer hope for humanity. A changing of the guard has occurred. Appropriately, this is the week of the Jewish Festival of Sukkoth (’til Oct. 4), when we build temporary homes (little huts in nature), entering into a harvest of prayer and thanksgiving, understanding our fragile and impermanent existences. We are summoned to reflect upon our lives, our humanity, our nature, our spirit and each other. Offering gratitude, becoming a magnet for others. We observe. We see the needs. We love more.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of October 2

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Extra Pop

Assembly’s pop-up space goes into regular rotation, Cabrillo wine dinner, and a visit to Mozaic


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist


Downhill Cellars

An easy-drinking Chardonnay from Downhill Cellars


If whales have a message for humans, what might it be?

“Do not come in the water and join us.” Howard Hall, Santa Cruz, Retired