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Maryland Youth Life Coach Program Attempts To Stop Gun Violence

For Pastor Ebony Harvin, working with young people is her ministry. From South Baltimore’s Cherry Hill neighborhood, she witnessed children go without food to eat or a place to live, prompting her to open up her home to others. When one of Baltimore’s largest shootings broke out at the Brooklyn neighborhood block party in July, leaving two young people dead and injuring more than two dozen others, Harvin walked the streets with grieving families to pray for the community. And over the past two decades, she has delivered hundreds of eulogies, even for her own son who was shot and killed. Now, Harvin is adding a new job to her long list of community outreach roles: Thrive Academy life coach, the Washington Post reports. Harvin is one of more than 14 coaches the state has tapped for a new program Gov. Wes Moore (D) and other Maryland leaders hope will address the needs of at-risk children in the juvenile justice system to turn them away from gun violence — either as a perpetrator or a victim. The state partners with established community organizations to draw in Thrive coaches, who are already working with youths or mentoring others.

Some of the questions Harvin asks Thrive Academy youths as they work to create a “life plan” include: “Do you feel that you have access to food?” “Do you have clothes that fit for all seasons?” and “Do you have a place to sleep inside every night?” Many youths are in “survival mode,” and without basic needs, care and support, they can become involved in violence as a product of their environment, Harvin said. Some have lost family members to gun violence, are surrounded by neighborhoods that lack resources and drugs are bought and sold on the corner. “Kids are not born murderers. They’re not born bad. Something in their life caused them to do some of the things that they’re doing. That’s why we have to get to the root of the problem, in order to fix any problem,” Harvin said. The Thrive Academy is part of Moore’s plan to reduce youth violence, a topic that’s top of mind this legislative session. According to a report released by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services last year, overall youth violence has been declining for years, but carjackings and handgun violations among juveniles have steadily risen.


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