EYEJ Impact 25 Youth Council Update by Sophia Higginbottom

Dear Cleveland, It has been about two weeks since we, the EYEJ Impact 25 Youth Council, presented our proposed solutions to Chief of Cleveland Police, Calvin Williams, and a host […]

May 18, 2018 // EYEJ // No Comments //

Dear Cleveland,

It has been about two weeks since we, the EYEJ Impact 25 Youth Council, presented our proposed solutions to Chief of Cleveland Police, Calvin Williams, and a host of other prominent Clevelanders.

I’d like to take you back to our presentation day. We stood in front of a crowd of over 100 guests at the historic League Park, mustered as much courage as we could, and presented our process and proposal of solutions. As a reminder, we were a group of young people from around Cleveland who discussed the issues we saw and faced daily, and after six months of difficult conversations, research, listening, and deliberation, we came up with methods of remedy and prevention for the traumas we were most passionate about with the focus on figuring out a win-win solution for all involved.

Our proposal included asks for:

  • Continuing to give young people a place to speak at the table with the leaders of Cleveland, by continuing the youth council with monthly meetings, which would allow them to manage and provide recommendations for the proposed programming which strategizing to create policy change.
  • The creation of a position for a Youth Independency Manager, to be held accountable for making sure that all aspects of the proposal and the council’s recommendations are followed that would report into the EYEJ Impact 25 Youth Council.
  • The creation of Youth Independency Discussion Series programming in the form of a 9-month curriculum for one hour weekly sessions of discussion for ninth and tenth grade students with expert guest speakers during the school day. This would continuously develop life skills in young people, and give them a safe place to express concerns and ask for answers and advice from experts.
  • Quarterly (4) facilitated luncheons between ninth grade high school students and police officers. These would allow for students to have positive interactions with police officers, hopefully before too many negative experiences cloud their perspectives. It also opens the space for discussion between both parties, serving to build the relationships on both sides.  I believe that once relationships between young people and officers are developed, there will be more thought before negative judgements on both sides, as well as a possible development of the desire to serve the city as an officer from our young people.
  • Ninth grade student field trip to police training facilities to improve understanding and efforts of both parties, because just as the officers will be in the schools to see how students are learning, I believe the students should see a piece of how officers learn and train. This helps students to empathize more clearly with officers. It also helps to build a sense of trust for the institution through positive interaction.

We proposed that these solutions be tested in three high schools for three years, in order to change proposed solutions in any way necessary. At the conclusion of this presentation, there seemed to be much verbal support from the audience. Many people asked how they could help and what could be done going forward.

Of all the experiences that I have had from growing up in Cleveland, to working with youth here daily, to collaborating with EYEJ and the youth council has helped to inform the discussions that created this proposal.  I took part in many informative sessions, such as speaking to police officers many times to inform our understanding of their roles and the trainings that officers go through. I took part in discussing the problems between younger generations and older generations that cause mistrust of the police in the general population.  The solutions that were reached, were the result of much compromise on both sides. Our council saw the resulting proposal as a middle ground which both parties might be able to reach.  

Many of the council members, as well as the Executive Director; Mai Moore and EYEJ, are looking to make sure this proposal is put into practice.  We are trying to fundraise as quickly and efficiently as possible to be able to get our ideas off the ground, as we need to start preparing for the new 2018-2019 school year. We hope to fully support and implement this proposal as the deadline is July 1, 2018.  It takes more than our ideas to create change.  With proper funding, we can move forward to collaborate and make positive change.

Here is a recap of our April 30th presentation.

Sincerely,

Sophia Higginbottom

EYEJ Impact 25 Youth Council Lead