ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Malik Evans helped host a ‘teen town hall’ Tuesday, hoping to bring solutions to the table when it comes to curbing the city’s ongoing problem with violence. 2021 was a record-breaking year for homicides, and many leaders want to tackle the problem in its earliest stages.
50-plus teens joined the call from the Champion Academy and other organizations. The focus was on what we can do to lift youngsters out of cycles of violence; the answer many times over was creating positive opportunities and getting young men and women to take advantage of those.
Mayor Malik Evans saying for Rochester to be a vibrant city, we need to invest in our young people. “There’s often this saying that young people are our future. I also say ‘no, they’re the future, but they’re also the present,” he says.
He says leaders connecting early with youth is key. These last two years of COVID-19 and violence– a challenge for so many city boys and girls.
“And the way we’re going to change that is by making sure the youth change that. That’s how you start a movement,” says Evans.
Camille Simmons with the Rochester City School District, says adult mentor intervention early on– is critical for so many who have no one to guide them. Gangs, lurking and looking to bring fresh faces in.
“These young people are being recruited as early as fifth grade,” she says.
No opportunity, she says, leads to an idle mind. An idle mind can then lead to trouble. NFL star and Rochester-raised Roland Williams said growing up, keeping busy was essential to progress.
“I work for City Rec, I worked at the YMCA- the metro Y, I worked at Delta Sonic, the car wash on Main street. I worked at McDonald’s,” says Williams.
Dr. Shirley Green with RCSD says it’s about seizing positive opportunities. “If we put enough things in front of our youth, they can’t be busy doing those things we don’t want them to do,” she says.
Things like Championship Academy and the Teen Empowerment Center aim to do that- provide opportunities to lift youngsters up– and overcome barriers like poverty and violence. The Mayor is hoping more and more will choose to break disruptive cycles.
“Young people: your time is not in the future. Your time is right now,” he says.
The mayor says neighborhood associations and recreation centers are in need of young people and is hoping more will choose paths there.