“At its core, Project Safe Neighborhoods is built upon the commitment and personal integrity of individuals like those we honor today,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler at a ceremony in New Orleans. “This year’s awards celebrate and highlight the work that has been done that has truly made a difference. Led by our U.S. Attorneys, federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement and prosecutors are on the front lines on the streets of America every day. We thank you for your service and honor your success.”
YIN won “for its comprehensive initiative designed to build and support a high performing and robust community working together to serve youth identified as likely to commit or become victims of violent crimes without prevention assistance,” stated a DOJ press release. On hand to receive the award were Antioch Police Chief Jim Hyde and Antioch resident Iris Archuleta, who co-founded the YIN three years ago.
“We’re deeply honored to be recognized by the Department of Justice for the progress we’ve made in building a safer city,” said Hyde at a press conference in Antioch last week. “In particular we’re proud that the Department of Justice has recognized the fact that protecting a city is a partnership with the community. We could not be successful if it weren’t for the many members of this community who have stepped forward to make a difference in our neighborhoods and our city and our families.”
YIN provides intensive training for community volunteers, showing them how to mentor at-risk youth before they commit or become victims of violent crime. About 160 people have received 40 hours of training, and many have received an additional 20 to 30 hours of advanced training. The training is modeled on a similar program in Northern Ireland called Dialogue for Peaceful Change, which has helped reduce violence among at-risk youth in that area.
There’s a possibility the network could expand nationwide. Hyde and Archuleta will meet with DOJ officials in Washington in September “to look at replicating this model in other communities across the country,” said Hyde. They also recently traveled to Salinas to introduce community leaders there to the program.
Archuleta said the program is seeing results from volunteers spending three to five months mentoring youth and providing support for their families. “We have seen tremendous response from these families,” she said. “We have seen kids go from an average GPA of 0.65 to some graduating with 2.75, 3.25. As a matter of fact, Antioch’s first African-American Youth of the Year was a YIN, a Youth Intervention Network kid. Antioch is doing groundbreaking work. What’s exciting for us is not so that we can be here and be recognized, but so that that this city can be proud of who it is. We are more than the negativity and bad news. We have done something that is extremely significant and ongoing work.”
Also praising YIN at the press conference was County Supervisor Federal Glover, who started a Gang Task Force five years ago in an effort to help at-risk youth. “(YIN) is a holistic approach to dealing with violence and gang activity,” he said, “because it looks at the family as a whole. We don’t know what starts an individual to gravitating to gang activity and violent behavior. But looking at the family unit as a whole, YIN has proven itself to be model of success to be able to really curb these types of events from happening.”
Brian Hooker, field representative for Congressman John Garamendi, presented a Certificate of Congressional Recognition to Hyde and Archuleta, saying, “It’s programs like this that we really need to embrace in this out-of-the-box thinking.”
Antioch Councilwoman Martha Parsons, who went through the 40 hours of training and serves on the YIN executive board, said, “They have done amazing things. Because of them, we are on the map. We do have something to be proud of – one of the many things, I might add. Thank you so much for helping our youth and bringing humanity back to the kids.”
YIN training is being conducted for administrators and some of the staff at Antioch High. In addition, Archuleta said Dialogue for Peaceful Change would be offering an annual scholarship for Antioch High students interested in pursuing a degree in sports psychology and sociology in Belfast, Ireland.