ForwardLA: How Positive Youth Development Acts as a Proactive Public Safety Initiative

youth

On December 2nd, United Parents and Students hosted a summit on issues facing our communities in Los Angeles facing Green Dot parents and students. This series will explore the focus areas of ForwardLA: A Day of Justice.

At the root of crimes across Los Angeles are real-life issues such as poverty, joblessness, homelessness, and substance abuse. It’s tough to truly address crime without addressing these issues in tandem. Focusing on proactive and early preventative measures rather than suppressive ones can make a real difference to public safety. For our children, investing in youth development is vital to create safer streets while giving young people the tools they need to lead successful, healthy lives.

That means providing resources that keep our children safe from negative influences that exist on the streets. Currently, the City of Los Angeles only spends $65 per adolescent, per year on positive youth development for nearly half a million youth– this includes community and recreation center programs, mental health services, and after school activities. At the same time, LA spends $29,000 on each adolescent arrested in the city. The unfortunate reality is that this allocation of money reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline, which is an issue that affects too many young Angelenos, particularly in historically underserved communities.

United Parents and Students is creating a robust plan of action to disrupt a school-to-prison pipeline – one that focuses on how we can support our youth, their communities, and their overall wellbeing.

The path to prison often starts in schools that fail to address the social and emotional needs of students. Criminalization of our youth, through practices like stop and frisk, leads to broken bonds between law enforcement and community members and is also detrimental to a child’s life trajectory and their propensity to succeed. To that end, United Parents and Students (UPAS) is creating a robust plan of action to disrupt a school-to-prison pipeline – one that focuses on how we can support our youth, their communities, and their overall wellbeing. UPAS is helping parents advocate for safer streets and positive relationships between youth and law enforcement.

“All youth should be able to attend school, engage in their communities, and participate in extracurricular activities without having to worry about being in harm’s way. They should be able to be active on playgrounds or on sports fields, navigate public spaces freely, and not have to worry about unsafe neighborhoods and people,” said Larry Fondation, Executive Director of UPAS.

As a family of public schools that focuses on student growth and readiness for the future, Green Dot is honored to work with UPAS in taking on an active role within the community to increase awareness, dialogue, and action around creating safer streets. On December 2nd at ForwardLA, UPAS and Green Dot parents worked with civic leaders to develop action plans around just that, working to align the city’s priorities with those of our community members in order to strengthen public safety across Los Angeles.

Said Fondation: “Hiring more police and law enforcement doesn’t actually solve all of these issues. Achieving equity in these communities means distributing funds in ways that tell our communities: we hear you and your priorities matter. Our priority is safety, and that can, and should, be achieved through positive youth development.”

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