In our work with Louisville’s youth and young adults who are not in school or employed, CSYA member organizations have collectively walked with thousands of young people impacted by gun violence. These young people, some of our community’s most valuable yet vulnerable, have experienced homelessness, abuse and neglect, educational disruption, and persistent poverty. Despite their innate capabilities and inspiring goals, many are marginalized by their experiences as children or the structural racism in the schools, courts, and other systems that have “served” them.
The Coalition Supporting Young Adults is focused on understanding and addressing the complex individual and systemic problems marginalized young people face in Louisville that can, and too often do, result in exposure to or involvement in violence. Guided by the young people themselves, we have collectively identified several actions our community could take to address these issues.
- Transition Louisville to a “Zero Detention” community, recognizing that young people with out-of-bounds behaviors need services, education, supportive adults, and another chance. We must dismantle the current School to Prison systems that push out and criminalize black and brown students and denies their right to an education.
- Fund evidence-based programs designed specifically to help marginalized youth such as supportive and transitional housing, academic services, mental health services, mentoring, substance use treatment, career exploration, apprenticeships and other job training opportunities. Involve young people in the process of identifying these programs and evaluating their effectiveness.
- Create committees on the Louisville Metro Council and the JCPS Board of Education that identify and address the policies and practices that marginalize and criminalize black and brown young people in our community. Ensure these committees use data and the voices of young people to inform their decisions and hold them accountable for ensuring their new policies are followed.
- Create high-quality educational pathways to a high school diploma for marginalized students and those who are over-age and under-credited. Provide evidence-based supports that address the complex needs of students (flexible schedule, work-learn opportunities, postsecondary and college preparation, life skills development, advisors, and career exploration).
- Train Louisville’s law enforcement, court staff, front-line youth workers, program leaders, educators, funders, parents, decision makers and young people about the issues that lead to violence and that result from exposure to violence.
Structural racism and poverty are at the heart of most challenges young people who are impacted by violence face. Addressing these issues will take a significant shift in thinking about marginalized young people, new policies and practices that recognize the unacceptable costs of leaving even one person behind, and a funding strategy from JCPS, Louisville Metro, and private foundations that demonstrates an unwavering commitment to preparing each young person for their future.
There are many ideas on the table – now is the time to move forward with intention and urgency. There are collective actions Louisville’s service providers, public agencies, educators, leaders, and adult advocates can take to transform the way we assist and advocate for our most vulnerable young people. Agreeing on the actions that are both achievable and effective will continue to be challenging and the Coalition Supporting Young Adults invites all community members – youth and adults – to join us in this important discussion.