Before the Summit: Twin Cities YEP Youth Advocate at State Capitol
by Annie Faye | World Vision, Twin Cities | Communication Specialist
Eight youth on World Vision’s Twin Cities Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) team have collectively lost 34 friends and acquaintances to youth violence. Anger, despair, and vulnerability are common reactions to such loss, but these youth plead for more than just sympathy—they plead for change in government policies, and for safety.
Six out of eight of this year’s YEP delegates brought their fervor for nonviolence to the Capitol of Minnesota on June 16. The youth are passionate for programs supporting youth-initiative programs, violence prevention, and gun safety.
The six young people took turns speaking to three representatives about youth violence, which is a major issue of concern in the Twin Cities. According to the City of Minneapolis, approximately 80 Minneapolis residents between the ages of 15 and 24 died as a result of homicide from 2003 to 2006. Seventeen Minneapolis residents younger than 24 have died from homicide since January 2011.
Standing Against Violence
The 2011 YEP team’s policy proposals focus on violence and crime, which grew out of some delegates’ personal experience. Lissette Amezquita, now 17, was in a gang at age 13. Borisha Perkins has lost so many friends and peers to gang violence and she feels she could be next.
After examining their experiences living in the community and researching the issue of youth violence, the YEP team members concluded that the Twin Cities lack adequate support, guidance, and opportunity for local young people—all which fuel youth violence.
The youth also recommended fixing problems with local and state background check systems and that the gun show loophole close with the passage of The Fix Gun Check Act of 2011.
“It should be much more difficult for those who should not have guns to get them by making sure more sales are accompanied by proof of identity and a quality background check,” said Axl Amezquita.
Creating Safe Streets
The youth were encouraged by Rep. Rena Moran’s support: “It is really important to keep doing what you’re doing.” As a mother of seven, it was clear the topic of youth safety was important to her: “We need to create safe streets, and who can do that better than you?”
For the YEP delegates, this was a good taste of what was to come when the YEP team traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate before respective federal lawmakers.