The Youth Engagement Zone at Banana Kelly:Going Door to Door to Curb Urban Violence

By Stephanie Gilman, Program Manager

School may not be in session, but the Youth Engagement Zone, buildOn’s service learning program at Banana Kelly High, is still going strong with a number of community outreach activities. On Friday, July 8th, students ventured to the James Monroe Housing Development in the Soundview area of the Bronx to spread the word door-to-door about what residents can do to help prevent violence. The students were accompanied not only by community volunteers but by local assembly member Marcos Crespo.

[pullquote]We wanted to get buildOn’s students to go door to door spreading the word about how to report illegal guns and crimes through an anonymous hotline.[/pullquote]

“There’s been a number of high profile crimes in Soundview recently,” Crepso commented. “Everything from a young student who was shot while coming out of a high school to a gentleman who was picked at random and also shot. There’s a lot of gang activity going on and drug sales and it’s leading to a lot of these shootings. In response to that we’ve done some peace rallies with both students and seniors. And for this project we wanted to get buildOn’s students to go door to door spreading the word about how to report illegal guns and crimes through an anonymous hotline. If a tip leads to an arrest the caller could be rewarded up to $1000.”

In the morning, students were given tips by Assembly Member Crespo on how to approach the residents of the Monroe Houses, and then they started knocking on doors. Not everyone was friendly, however. Recent YEZ graduate Stephanie Velazquez noted that “Some people were nice — saying hi, shaking your hand, appreciating what we’re doing — and some people didn’t even want to open their door.” Another student, Shirley Gonzalez, explained the importance of providing resources even to those who refuse to engage. “We respect their privacy,” she said, “and just put a pamphlet on their door.”

[pullquote]Not ALL our youth are involved in gangs and crime.[/pullquote]

Crespo added: “In a community that’s been plagued by crime, for the residents to see that we’re not afraid to come here and speak about positive information…it puts a face on the good things that are happening in our neighborhood. And it shows that not ALL our youth are involved in gangs and crime. The bravery they exhibit by coming here and talking is really powerful. I think it’s a great experience for the students, too…when they leave here they’ll feel empowered.”

Indeed, this is one of the most hands-on service activities we’ve ever done, and engaging in a service project this challenging requires courage. But our students, as usual, rose to the occasion. Velazquez further stated, “At first I was scared to do this. This is a community I don’t know. I didn’t know how people would react to us going door to door…but then I got the hang of it.”

Posted July 12, 2011 in News by buildOn

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By Stephanie Gilman, Program Manager School may not be in session, but the Youth Engagement Zone, buildOn’s service learning... http://www.buildon.org/2011/07/the-youth-engagement-zone-at-banana-kellygoing-door-to-door-to-curb-urban-violence/

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