Photo Gallery | Vigil for Peace and Hope for Youth
PITTSFIELD — Local clergy, youth, government and community leaders gathered in earnest on Sunday evening to offer to the community a "Vigil for Peace and Hope for All our Youth."
Held at the First United Methodist Church in partnership with the Price Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, the event was meant to put a renewed call to action and faith that the lives of even troubled youth can be changed for the better, so long as the community invests time, resources and empathy into its young people.
"A great many violent crimes being committed in the city are happening to young people and due to gang initiation, from my perspective," said the Rev. Ralph Howe, pastor of the First United Methodist Church on Fenn Street.
"We were working a lot with young people and see the hopelessness and lack of other opportunities for them, and we would like people to focus on ways in which we could do more to enhance the lives of many youths in our community, especially those at risk of following the path of the playground to prison pipeline," Howe said.
In addition to the evenings greetings, song, an various remarks, Howe announced a $7,500 grant received from the national United Methodist Church back in the spring, which will be used this fall to help launch a youth-led Forum for Youth Empowerment Training. Howe said he'd like to convene a group of interested youth and young adults to first review various options of training programs and curricula in anti-bullying, violence prevention, conflict-resolution, community organizing, public advocacy, self-development and the like, and then select programs that would be best implemented in Pittsfield.
"We're planning to work with Pittsfield Community Connection and are interested in working with any other youth programs that might benefit," Howe said.
The pastor said that he and the Rev. Benjamin Green, Price Memorial's pastor, are eager to connect and bring together all groups in the community that are working for youth, so that young people can see that the whole community is supporting them.
Howe said that already, various leaders in the community, from Berkshire United Way to 1Berkshire and the city itself, have been developing good strategies to help kids and teens. He said that more work is being done through the Berkshire Bridges, an entity formed under the state's Working Cities Challenge Grant to Pittsfield, to go out into the community listen to people being served by transitional and poverty prevention programs and empower them to be part of the solution. Thirdly, he said he hopes this new youth forum initiative will help "weave people together in a richer fabric of a community and have more folks engaged in the lives of young people."
Jenn Smith can be reached at 413-496-6239.