Preventing Youth Violence, One Community at a Time

Brianna organized her first peace rally as a 7th grader. Having lived in Salinas, California, her whole life, she is no stranger to the effect violence has on her rural community.

Like many her age, Brianna enjoys spending time at the Bread Box. An open recreation center, Bread Box provides a safe place to meet with friends, play games, do homework, and shoot hoops. But, depending on the season, some of her friends may not even be in the country. Those who did stay year round often had problems when “The Salad Bowl of the World” wasn’t harvesting its trademark lettuce.

In this community, it’s not uncommon for an entire family to live in a single sub-rented room.

Brianna noticed when an officer-involved shooting took place not too far from the Bread Box. She also noticed when angry protests began taking place. Brianna knew that more rage and violence would not help their community. But having gone through a STRYVE provided leadership program the year before—provided by CDC’s Striving to Prevent Youth Violence Everywhere (STRYVE) initiative—she also knew she could do something about it.

Brianna organized a Peace Rally, gaining support from her peers and local organizations. They set up opposite the angry rallies, holding signs encouraging peaceful discussion about solutions and encouraging cars to “honk for peace.”

Sunrise in Salinas during our recent STRYVE shoot

Sunrise in Salinas during our recent STRYVE shoot

Their message gained attention and soon people in the angry protests began joining their peace rally. No hateful signs allowed. And when one person continued using negative language, Brianna made him leave.

Many challenges still face the people of Salinas, California. But spend just a few minutes with Brianna and she’ll tell you how—with their leaders working together and youth like herself stepping up—these challenges will one day be behind them.

Brianna looks forward to seeing these positive changes come to fruition in her community, so her home becomes a place where everyone can live without fear of violence.