Connecting Communities | July 2022
Gun Violence is a major topic in headlines throughout the U.S. and it hits close to home in the communities supported by Marillac St. Vincent. June 2nd was Gun Violence Awareness Day and the following weekend from June 3rd-5th Americans, as well as the MSV Community, supported it by wearing orange and facilitating positive, safe conversations among the students and staff.
We spoke with Albert Richardson, Director of Youth Services at MSV, to learn a little more about Youth Services and the positive elements offered to kids while also providing support in times of crisis.
Tell us a little about the goals for Youth Services at Marillac St. Vincent Family Services.
In Youth Services, our kids are working with our staff to develop positive relationships that allow them to discover who they are and learn how to be leaders in their communities. Throughout these programs, they are developing the tools to carry with them in their lives. All our programs, services and facilities work to steer the kids away from gun violence, which is very real in the communities we support. From the new AT&T Connected Learning Center (computer lab) to the spaces in the Foglia Center and St. Vincent DePaul Center, we encourage our staff to use these spaces to help kids remember what it is like to be a kid.
Unfortunately, most of our kids normalize violence. We want to show them another side of childhood and growing up. Working to help leave those things outside the doors of MSV, and provide a safe, nourishing space to play, learn, collaborate, study and connect in a positive way with other members of the community.
Learn More about Youth Services at Marillac St. Vincent from Albert Richardson's recent Interview on WVON Radio.
Can you share more about what Gun Violence Awareness means for the Youth Services?
We talk about gun violence, about what is happening nationally and within our local neighborhoods. This tends to surface when something happens, like recently in Buffalo or when someone loses a loved one. We provide a safe, relaxing space to let them talk and share how they feel. And, we use it as an opportunity to teach.
Supporting our staff is also a focus. Most of our staff live within the communities we serve, and the gun violence is just as real for them. Many of them come through our programs, especially in Hope Junior, and it offers a great opportunity for them to give back, share and connect with the kids they now support.
Support can be simple, providing a space to have a healthy meal, spend free time, and provide structure in their day through the programs. It is so important for the kids to see that people care about them when they are within the spaces here at MSV. They need to feel the love, support, and respect that we can offer so we don’t lose them to the streets.
How Does the Trauma Informed Care focus within Marillac St. Vincent play a role in Youth Services when addressing Gun Violence?
We offer Trauma Informed Sessions for staff members who do the groundwork. It’s essential to be aware about how we communicate, not meeting force with force, and understanding the need to calm the situation down. Young people have pride, and we help the kids understand where and how violence happens. When you point out what leads to gun violence, participants start to understand, “it’s stupid” which is what the kids say, and it is.
What are some of the positive things that you see throughout the Youth Service Programs?
Seeing the young folks that come up through the program, now teaching the kids, is so powerful. And that is what we are seeing at Marillac St. Vincent, the young that are doing such great things with a new perspective on life. I am so proud of them and to be a part of their life, like the kids (now adults) in the following video honoring the Hope Junior Legacy.
Hear from some of our Hope Junior Alumni on the positive impact of Marillac St. Vincent.
Watch Deshon McKnight’s Spoken Word.
When Deshon speaks, it is authentic, you can feel that in every moment of the video. He took challenges and turned them into something positive. And everyone in the video is still within our community, some are even staff now. We share with our kids these examples and the idea that when you use resources given to you, you can get there too.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am so proud and grateful to our staff from the Hope Junior team to all the School-Age staff. It has always been tough, going through COVID being short staffed was trying, and I love to see how they lean on each other supporting one another towards success. We are still learning, but the important thing is that we come back again and again willing to work through challenges. The sheer effort and compassion our staff show for each other and the kids is inspiring and the lasting legacy of Marillac St. Vincent.
Interested to learn about Youth Programs within the Marillac St. Vincent Community?
Learn more about ways to donate, volunteer or work at MSV.