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S.T.R.O.N.G Youth

 

The Accompagnateur Workshops, I Am Your Protector, and S.T.R.O.N.G Youth co-created a workshop.

A gang prevention and intervention agency, S.T.R.O.N.G. Youth, Inc. was built on the belief that the cure for the Long Islands region’s gang epidemic is in educating and empowering local communities to provide alternatives for youth.

For the past 18 years, S.T.R.O.N.G Youth has been promoting positive values through youth empowerment programs, support, and counseling; providing youth and their families with tools to improve their lives, their communities, and to create societal change. It develops systems that aid in reducing incarceration of local youth and violence in the communities.

Through dialogue, photography, and storytelling we are able to share a more truthful perspective of youth confronted to gang violence and on the perils of living such a devastating lifestyle.

 
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Read the article featured in Newsday, or keep reading for the workshop.

Background:

The need for help rehabilitating youth involved in violence and gang activities in the Suffolk and Nassau counties (New York) is immense, as the issues don’t abate. With the press, the public eye very much probing the violence and rivalry going on between different gangs there is a need to support and promote dialogue within the communities as well as with the “outside world”.

I was hired by I Am Your Protector to offer the opportunity for exploratory conversations between two young groups that would never spend time together: youth affiliated with street-organizations and/or justice-system involved and local “white” kids from the more affluent communities of Long Island, NY.

The goal was through the medium of the camera to share thoughts and experiences and develop a healthy sense of the other beyond the stereotypes of offenders and “moral” citizens.

Participants:

15 children signed up for this program.  We had 8 S.T.R.O.N.G Youth kids. Kids involved with the County Probation Department or kids at high risk of becoming involved with justice.

We had 7 kids from the local communities who were recruited through public schools, churches and other programs. 

The photo workshop was highly supported by S.T.R.O.N.G who deployed staff and counselors for all three sessions - with a minimum of 6 adults assisting the young participants in any of the activities and discussions (translating from Spanish to English, gently coaxing reluctant kids to participate and share, supporting them in the process).


Using Self-Expression to Better Understand Shared Humanity

The photo workshop was designed to encourage and teach youth to see the humanity within a diverse community. Between disadvantaged (non-white) neighborhoods with a high level of instability and white suburbs.

Sharing Perspectives to Dissolve Bias

Each group can overcome the way they see the other through engaging with the other and in this manner build stronger communities without bias. It is a two-way street where the young children can learn from each other. They can dispel the fears and stereotypes they have held for the “other" as each session highlights and carries the message of the humanity with its aspirations for each youngster.

The First Session…

The Second Session…

The Third Session…

We hosted an exhibition for the participants and the local community.

Here are some of the participants’ photos, with statements, that were on display.

Objectives & Outcomes

The participants learned a lot about themselves, about the perspective of others, and how they may be seen by some. The STRONG Youth counselors shared that they have never seen the kids be able to go to the personal, intimate, vulnerable places in the way they did during a short amount of time and only three sessions.  They were blown away and they are looking for funds to be able to offer the same photo workshop in 2020 to other kids.


What participants had to say…


What S.T.R.O.N.G YOUTH had to say…