The February 20, 2006 murders of two Town N Country (TNC) young men, reported to be gang-related, shocked and horrified youth, adults and the community in general. Many of the youth who attend the FICS Multicultural Family Center knew at least one of the young men who lost his life. Sebastian, 16, died on the scene not even one mile from our Center. Town n Country became a hotbed for the local news stations, who swarmed the location and looked for people to interview. As part of their grieving process, youth went from shock to anger to dismay and denial. They wondered out loud what would happen to the community’s perception of them. Would they be labeled gangsters? Would anyone want to help them? How could they help their friends and relatives, especially younger siblings, not fall into the “gangster” lifestyle?
Instead of wondering, the youth mobilized and worked with staff at FICS to organize a series of three community roundtables to discuss the situation. Youth were trained and facilitated roundtables mixed with adults, service providers and educators, to come up with priorities for prevention. The result was that our Center youth, though in mourning, stood up with the parents of the slain youth and took a stand against youth violence. The press, TV, newspaper and radio, was on hand to document this and we were able to begin a real community dialogue about the need for more positive places for youth in Hillsborough County to go after school. We have to remember that youth are not adults and be sensitive to their needs. At one roundtable, a 10 year old girl asked, “What if the gang members are the only adults who are ever nice to you?”
Indeed, that’s why we are here. Now, we are proud to say that we offer afterschool programming to youth aged 7 to 17 everyday! We need mentors and tutors, as well! Email email@example.com