By Carleen Wray
Special to Philanthropy Journal
With recent incidences of school violence making national headlines, many people are searching for answers on how to stem this epidemic. Shootings, suicides due to bullying and cyberbullying, and intolerance for people of different lifestyles and backgrounds all stress the need for citizens, specifically students, to take action to make our communities and schools safer.
This is where Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) comes in. We are a Raleigh-based national nonprofit organization striving to decrease the potential for violence in our schools and communities by promoting meaningful student involvement, education and service opportunities in efforts to provide safer environments for youth. SAVE is a unique and powerful approach to youth safety, because it recognizes the role that young people can take in making schools and communities safer.
The organization started in 1989 in response to the shooting death of a well-loved high school student in Charlotte who had attempted to break up a fight at a party. The teen’s friends decided to honor his memory by starting a student-organized and -led movement to end violence in schools across the United States.
Today, more than 2,000 elementary, middle and high schools have active SAVE chapters that seek to ignite change through targeted action and community involvement. Our goal is to:
- Engage students in meaningful violence prevention efforts within their school and community.
- Empower youth with knowledge and skills necessary to provide service to their community and school.
- Encourage positive peer influences within the school and community through violence prevention efforts.
- Educate students about the effects and consequences of violence as well as how to provide safe activities for students, parents and the community.
This week, we have the honor of carrying out our goals by promoting National Youth Violence Prevention Week with our SAVE chapters. SAVE started this week a decade ago in order to address the most pressing violence-related issues facing teens. Each day, we are partnering with another national nonprofit organization to address several major topics, including:
- Promote Respect and Tolerance
- Manage Your Anger, Don’t Let It Manage You!
- Resolve Conflicts Peacefully
- Support Safety
- Unite in Action
Chapters will organize various service activities, skill-building workshops, contests, role-playing and more to give students a voice in solving violence among their peers and others within the community. Throughout this week, as well as through all our efforts, we envision that schools and communities will be safer and more secure, free of fear, and conducive to learning as a result of students being actively involved in meaningful violence prevention efforts.
Our students need the support of community partners in order to make their goal of ending violence in schools a reality. We encourage professionals from law enforcement, business, government, education, social services and medical communities to use their expertise to help SAVE. Senior citizens, religious and service organizations are welcome as well. After all, each of these groups has a unique perspective and skills that are integral in our mission and can help students promote safety and nonviolence.
This week, help us commemorate National Youth Violence Prevention Week. In the weeks to come, please consider giving of your time and energy to help young people create a brighter future in which violence is not a threat to their overall wellbeing. With the help of you and our nation’s students, we can stop the violence that is devastating so many promising young lives.
Carleen Wray is the executive director of Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE).