San Pedro Youth Speak Out!

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 11            March 15, 2006

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Groups of students discussed ways they are affected by crime and violence, and came up with ways to resolve the problem.

Sergeant Cowo was one of the guest speakers for the forum. He discussed his role with the Police Department and addressed the students’ concerns.

On Friday, March 10th, the Ministry of Human Development’s Community Rehabilitation Department (CRD), hosted a forum for “Youth Speaking Out on Crime, Violence and Opportunity”. The forum included 110 primary and high school students from San Pedro for a three hour program at the San Pedro Lion’s Den. The purpose of the forum was to get feedback from the youth and discuss ways to combat or reduce the violence and crime committed by our nation’s youth.

   The program began with Natalie Arceo, student of San Pedro High School (SPHS) singing the National Anthem, followed by a delightful prayer done by Father Leroy Jenkins. Fermin Olivera, director of CRD, initiated the presentation with an overview of program, then Maureen Williams from the Community Rehabilitation Department, Magistrate Frazer from Belize City and Sergeant Cowo from the San Pedro Police Department took turns speaking to the youth about how they deal with youths crimes.

   According to Olivera, a research study was conducted which revealed that Belize and Dangriga have the highest level of abuse and violence among the youths, a sad but true reality that has been plaguing them for years now. A 20 minute video was then played called “Do you see what I see” which is concentrated on true stories of youths and adolescents coming in conflicts with the law. The idea of the video was brought out quite vividly as they learned that pressure from their peers is the leading means of violence and crime in Belize. The video portrayed the lives of troubled youth – youth that have been sent either to boot camp or prison from a young age.

   After the individual presentations, the students were broken into groups of 10 to 15 for a question and answer session. Their input in the project was helpful as the areas they are most affected in was clearly pointed out. A question posed stated, “What do you see as the main 4 problems facing families in San Pedro?” The students presented their answer up front and were sincere when they concluded that the four leading causes are “prostitution, drinking, workaholic parents and lack of parental supervision. “What do you think are the 2 leading challenges facing young people in San Pedro?” was another question posed. They responded by saying, “young girls/boys engaging in sex and causing teenage pregnancy, getting involved in gang activities, peer pressure which leads to drugs and alcohol, and a lack of ethics and morality, having no sense of right and wrong.”

   Crime and violence tear up neighborhoods, families, and many young people’s chances of “making it” in this world a couple students exclaimed. Other suggested that instead of hiring more police, building more prisons, and imposing longer prison sentences at younger ages, we need to end poverty, enrich our schools, youth centers, activities, extracurricular and after-school programs, counseling services, and organizations that focus on the leadership development of young people.

   The student’s input exhibited during the forum will help with the comprehension as to what areas cause an increase in violence and crime in youths. Olivera concluded saying that they will host many more forums and events in San Pedro and around the country.

   The San Pedro Safety Committee would like to take the opportunity to thank Mayor Elsa Paz, CRO Directors Fermin Olivera and Maureen Williams, Magistrate Sharon Frazer, Principal of San Pedro High School Angel Nuñez, Principal of San Pedro Roman Catholic School Kay, Principal of Saint Peter’s Elementary Frank Nuñez and Sergeant Cowo for their help and support in making Teen Day a very special and productive day.
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