First Meeting of the Youth Violence Summit Amplifies Student Voices

YouthViolenceSummit More than 400 Nashville teens came together last week for the first of four meetings of the Youth Violence Summit, hosted by Metro Schools and the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods.

The culmination of this first meeting is a set of 35 raw recommendations that will be incorporated into an official plan, to be presented to Mayor Megan Barry in March, for investments and policy changes to reduce violence among Nashville’s youth. The bulk of the first meeting was spent with students talking to students, community leaders and partners.

They discussed their own life experiences and share what they see as some of the root causes of and issues surrounding youth violence. Many students came away from the meeting feeling like their voices are valued and that they can make a difference in their communities.

“I felt like the adults were really trying to hear what we had to say, they were listening to us,” said DeEricko McCord, a senior at Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School.

“I got to talk to students from all over the city and think about what we can do to help make a change,” said Matthew Robinson, another senior at Pearl-Cohn.

“It was so great to have the opportunity to hear from Nashville’s teenagers about how we can help them to succeed,” said Mayor Barry. “The response and feedback they have given us is eye-opening and will be critical to our efforts to develop and implement a comprehensive youth violence reduction strategy.”

The recommendations students produced fall into five categories:

  • Greatest concerns surrounding youth violence and behaviors young people see
  • Causes and effects of youth violence, including contributors
  • Resources currently available to youth
  • Gaps in service to meet the needs of youth
  • How to mobilize youth and the broader community to support violence reduction and expansion of opportunities

“This is the most meaningful thing we have done with Nashville’s youth in the last decade,” said Dr. Tony Majors, chief support services officer for Metro Schools and one of the architects of the event. “If we are to make any real difference for our young people and give them the futures they deserve, we must listen to them and use their voices to create policies citywide. There’s a lot we can do as educators, but there is even more to be done in the community at-large. I am very optimistic for this process and grateful for the Mayor and our many other community partners who are dedicated to making this work.”

Participating students came from more than a dozen of Nashville’s high schools, with staff from Metro Schools’ Family & Community Partnerships, Transportation Department and many more contributing to its success. Following the first meeting, many high school principals have been following up with students to continue the discussion in their own schools.

The Summit continues this Saturday, February 6, as Nashville’s civic, education and community leaders will once again join with teens and parents for an open discussion of the issues surrounding youth violence. Building on the success of the first meeting, this session will narrow the focus to school-age youth from age 13 to 18 and the unique perspectives they bring. Other meetings will focus on other age ranges, from 19-25 and birth to 12. Those wishing to attend the three events open to the public can RSVP by visiting


Future Meetings

Breaking the Cycle of Violence and Despair for Teens

Date: Saturday, February 6 from 9:00AM to 12:00PM

Location: Maplewood High School, 401 Walton Ln, Nashville, TN 37216

Details: This meeting will be focused on youth ages 13 to 18. Participants will include parents, educators, youth serving agencies, law enforcement, mentors, faith leaders, and teenagers. The Martha O’Bryan Center, Children’s Defense Fund, All the King’s Men, Dirty Dozen and Oasis Center will be working with the Mayor’s Office to facilitate the discussion.

Recovering Young Adults Ages 19-25

Date: Saturday, February 20, 2016 from 9:00AM to 12:00PM

Location: SE Community Center, 5260 Hickory Hollow Pkwy #202, Antioch, TN 37013

Details: Community leaders and experts will gather to identify barriers that may be limiting the success of youth ages 19 to 25 who have either experienced violence or are ex-offenders attempting to start a new path in life. Experts will include law enforcement, mentors, educators at the high school and post-secondary level, career development agencies, parents and individuals in this age range who can discuss the challenges they face.

Setting the Foundation for Success

Date: Saturday, February 27 from 9:00AM to 12:00PM

Location: TBD

Details: This event will feature parents, educators, youth agencies, and faith leaders who will gather to identify trends and behaviors currently exhibited by children from birth to the age of 12. They will discuss family dynamics that either contribute to or reduce anti-social behaviors and conduct an inventory of quality programs and services that currently exist with a goal of identifying gaps in services.