Philly coalition urges next mayor to not leave underserved youth behind

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A youth and parent-led coalition says the time is now to tackle decades of health inequities affecting Philadelphia’s most underserved children.

The plea comes from an initiative called The Kids Campaign, a nonpartisan group serving more than 100 Philly youth-serving organizations urging the city’s next mayor to take action on day one.

On Monday afternoon, the coalition drafted a set of policy memos aimed at addressing a wide variety of quality of life and safety concerns.

A group of about 30 community partners gathered at Columbia North YMCA to hear the proposed plans. They address elevating trauma-informed practices, community engagement, uplifting families, and career and education opportunities.

The Kids Campaign, a coalition of over 100 organizations that serve young people in Philadelphia, convened a panel of leaders to discuss what the next mayoral administration in the city could do to help keep kids safe at the Columbia Street YMCA on Oct. 23, 2023. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

One proposal is for the next administration to expand school and community-based diversion strategies for youth who commit “minor infractions.” It calls for improving education opportunities to decrease recidivism and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Members are also proposing an expansion of the Philly pre-K program by offering a 30-day service guarantee for children ages 3 to 5 who need early intervention services.

“I’m eager for the next mayor, for whom promises to reduce violence a top priority,” said Maritza Guirdy, a parent and child advocate, “will make out of school-based diversionary programs accessible to everyone.”

Guirdy, a former victim of gun violence and an armed robbery by a teen, has spent years helping youth stay active and “kept busy” in their community.

“Children are just like us. They’re going to make mistakes,” she said. “We need to make sure that they have places to go, activities to be a part of, and have the guidance to help them make better choices. We also need to make sure that when they make mistakes, that it’s not going to prevent them from recovering and then lead a healthier life.”

Maritza Guirdy, a parent and child advocate, talked about being robbed at gunpoint by a high school student who was eventually caught and spent time in the juvenile justice system. Guirdy shared her hope that the student would have a diversion option at a Kids Campaign panel discussing new strategies for community safety at the Columbia Street YMCA on Oct. 23, 2023. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

As of Oct. 23, Philadelphia has recorded 351 homicides this year. Gun violence has been a front and center issue during the city’s 2023 mayoral election, with some calling for strengthening police tactics to cut down on violence.

The Kids Campaign insists the root cause of gun violence is a lack of opportunities. But some are concerned that proposals to increase the police force ignore bigger issues, such as restoring access to educational and economic capital.

  • October 28, 2023
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