“I wish that people like me had come and talked to me when I was young,” Malik Ali comments as he reflects on his own experiences growing up in Richmond, CA, where violence was pervasive and supportive role models were few. As a young person, he struggled in school and was in and out of the juvenile justice system. Today, his perseverance and resilience to overcome the obstacles of his youth are gifts that he draws upon to reach young men like him. “My goal is to serve as a role model, mentor, and counselor,” he remarks.
Ali is one of four clinical case managers hired this year as part of the Young Men’s Empowerment Collaborative (YMEC). The YMEC is a partnership between the West Contra Costa Unified School District, the California School-Based Health Alliance, Bay Area Community Resources, the YMCA of the East Bay, Catholic Charities of the East Bay, and other community-based organizations. The collaborative aims to increase educational and health equity for boys and young men of color who have experienced complex trauma stemming from community violence and crime across five schools in Richmond, CA, by meeting the following goals:
- Create a supportive school climate for young male survivors of violence by enhancing restorative, trauma-informed systems of care and strengthening the ability of school staff to recognize trauma survivors, respond effectively, and refer them for appropriate services.
- Increase the portion of young male survivors of violence who are identified and served by expanding screening and outreach.
- Create an effective response to violence through the use of evidence-based interventions in school-based health centers to help boys and young men of color at school.
Nearing the end of the first year of implementation, the YMEC cultivated relationships with nearly 300 young men of color on school campuses. 43% of these students reported experiencing high exposure to traumatic events, like community violence. Subsequently, they were referred to the YMEC Clinical Case Managers, like Ali, and invited to participate in young men’s groups that focused on helping them understand and address their trauma and grief. The groups also provided these youth with skills to cope during stressful, triggering moments and connected them with others who may share similar experiences.
In reflecting on the impact that the YMEC has already had, Ali adds that the collaborative has increased resources and supports for students to cope with their stress and triggers. “Students now have a space that they can go to when they are feeling overwhelmed and a person who they can call on day or night and will listen to them without judgment.”
Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime.