KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — National Youth Violence Prevention Week is a time for youth to lead communities on effective strategies to prevent youth violence. It will be celebrated April 24-30. Throughout the week-long event, each day also corresponds to a specific challenge for communities.

The Community Safety Director for the City of Knoxville said one major goal of the week is to recognize the impact that youth violence can have on the entire community.

“Violence of all kinds has a major impact on youth,” LaKenya Middlebrook, Community Safety Director stated in a news release. “Next week, when violence prevention is receiving national attention, is a prime opportunity to show Knoxville’s young people that we are working together to help them to thrive.” 

Middlebrook also said in an interview with WATE 6 News that it’s important to realize it’s not solely up to the youth population of the community to make changes, much of the responsibility falls on adults across the community.

Middlebrook said adults can help support kids and teens by actively listening when they speak. She added that while a generational gap can sometimes make communication a little tougher, trying to see the way kids and teens are living their lives is important.

“That’s where that communication really comes into play and talking to your kiddos and understanding how they exist and what their world looks like and what’s impacting them and to get out there and try some of those things ourselves, right?,” began Middlebrook. “It can be scary, but if our kids are living in a digital world then we have to figure out how to enter that world and to be present with them.”

She also acknowledged that much of the time kids or teens will turn to their peers for support or help. She gave advice for them as well, saying it starts with using your peer resources.

“Finding people that are like-minded and you trust that can be a source of support for you to say, ‘Hey, this is something that we see is going on, How can we help to de-escalate this or mediate this conflict or intervene in some way?,’ in a way that’s safe for you,” Middlebrook said. “The biggest thing is that you also want to keep yourself safe, and then also finding a trusted adult.”

Throughout National Youth Violence Prevention Week, Eight local organizations that received grant funding from the City of Knoxville Community Safety office are providing activities and opportunities to local youth.

City Council approved $23,070 from the Community Safety department budget to be allocated to the Youth Violence Prevention Week Micro Grants Program. Organizations that received grants are: Girls, Inc., Muse Knoxville, YWCA Knoxville and The TN Valley, Karate Five Association, My Daughter’s Journey, Shora Foundation, The Bottom, and Forget You Not.

Public events and activities include:

  • An interfaith prayer vigil, hosted by the Knoxville Branch of the NAACP
  • After-school block party at Walter Hardy Park and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, hosted by the Phyllis Wheatley Center
  • Skate night free for kids 18 and under, hosted by the Change Center
  • Once Upon a Muse Storytelling performance by the River and Rail Theatre Group, hosted by The Muse Knoxville
  • Book fair, storytime and writing workshop, hosted by The Bottom
  • Kickball with former UT and NFL player Curt Maggitt and Friends Invitational Kickball Tournament at Ridley Helton Baseball Field

Additional grant participants will provide violence-prevention activities for the young people they serve in existing programs.

For a list of the dates and times of Youth Violence Prevention Week events that received supported from the City, including a day of prayer in Market Square and a City Skate Night, you head to their website.