Community Conversations, part of Acadia's Speak Out for Kids Campaign does not seek to provide expert answers to the question of youth violence, but rather looks to ask the right questions and facilitate community responses, based on identified needs.
Over three years ago in the United States, eight separate incidents of school shootings left the nation pondering the question, What is happening with today's youth, and what can we do to keep our children safe?
The tragedies occurring in our schools served as a wake-up call to our society, but the issue of keeping our children safe in school is only part of a larger picture. Forms of violence are pervasive in our everyday lives, and no generation has been exposed to this more than the current youth of America.
The national discussion is focusing on issues like: media, video games, road rage, lack of respect for others, physical and emotional abuse, verbal and physical harassment, drug and alcohol abuse, and many other phenomena. These issues may all play a role in what appears to be an
increasing violent element in our children. And again the question remains, What can we do?
A Call to Action
The Acadia Hospital, Bangor Daily News, the University of Maine, Maine Alliance for Arts Education, United Way, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the River Coalition and other organizations are collaborating to create connections in our communities. In October 1999, simultaneous Community Conversations were held in nine towns in the greater Bangor area and beyond. The goal was to empower teachers, parents, students, and others to express concerns and give their ideas on addressing those concerns.
Trained facilitators worked to guide the discussion and record the comments made by the group. The information was then gathered together and analyzed for common themes and possible action points. From the feedback Community Conversations planned a one-day conference on youth wellness and violence prevention titled, "Get Connected!". Since then much has been accomplished.
• Annual Get Connected! conferences;
• The Bangor Daily News/Acadia Hospital weekly column written by teens called Student Union, now in its third year;
• Educational presentations on parenting/communication/youth topics;
• Steering committee continuously evaluate needs of area youth and communities, and work to facilitate cooperation among local agencies.
• Arts Based Cmmunity Dialogue program, in partnership with Maine Alliance for Arts Education.