Business Organizations Could Do
A recent study surveyed 67 companies and corporations in "a major
city in the southern U.S." The researcher found "Eighty-eight
percent of the businesses were affected by gang-related crime in the city,
ranging from reduction of productivity to safety of employees.
aware of the effect of gangs on the local community (69%), schools (49%),
and girls' desire to join (70%). Results highlight the need for a corporation-based
approach to gang prevention, which would emphasize job and job training
opportunities and reach-out strategies to gang members and 'wanna-be's,' as
well as provide assistance to those employees (parents) whose children attend schools with gang-related problems."
2000, color added for emphasis.)
One of the engines that drives a community is its economy. Without
a healthy economy, families cannot support themselves, faith institutions and
their outreach programs cannot be created, schools cannot be built nor teachers
hired, and no infrastructure can be constructed or meaningfully maintained
(i.e., parks, streets, water systems, sidewalks, electrical power).
The business community consists of both private businesses and the
various organizations to which some business owners and employees belong
(i.e., the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and Kiwanis). Local businesses hold one of the numbers to the combination which unlocks
and nourishes a community's future. The other social institutions hold the other
numbers to the combination. Without a proper upbringing (family and faith), sufficient
knowledge (schools), and a job (the business sector), a child has little
hope of succeeding. Businesses play a vital role in providing an
incentive to work, job training, job opportunities, and advancement for
everyone in the community.
The primary obligation and purpose of any business is to make a profit
for its owners, shareholders (if any), and employees. Businesses must also
give back to the community - to help strengthen and improve it. By doing so,
they are assured of their future existence, continued profits, and enhance
their image in the eyes of the public they serve. In this sense, businesses
are a community partner and responsible for participating in efforts to
address community issues. As Wang found, businesses
have a vested interest in reducing gang activity and youth violence.
The following are some of the ways in which individual businesses and
business organizations do or could participate in helping reduce gang
activity and youth violence. Many of them are tax deductible if the agencies
they support qualify. The solutions have been divided into two categories:
workplace-based solutions and community-based solutions.
|Adopting a course (such as
Economics) in a local school:|
Everybody wins when the businesses and schools work
together. A business can adopt a specific course in a school in which students are taught skills
and knowledge related to the kind of work done in the business. A valuable
lesson is learned by simply providing the teacher and students in that course with on-site
opportunities to see how what the students are learning is put into practice.
For example, a stockbroker could invite the Economics class to visit
his or her company.
|Bringing students/teachers into
the work place: |
Some of the violence
exhibited by youths is a result of their frustration at failing to "fit in" in
a society which requires ever increasing levels of skill and knowledge to enter the
world of work. It behooves business owners to think of ways to bring
children into the work setting to learn what legitimate work is. This may
involve welcoming teachers and students to the workplace or finding ways to take the workplace to the classroom.
a) Business owners could call the local middle-school and let the
principal know of their interest in having students and teachers
visit their place of business to see how business is done. They can shadow
selected workers and learn how products are designed, made,
and/or sold and why businesses are so important to a community.
b) Or business owners can bring their businesses to the
classroom, or a chart of how their businesses are conducted. They could
create a video of their business operations and share it with the students.
The point of these exercises is to give children an
accurate perception of what work is, what kinds of legitimate work there
are, why people work, the kinds of work
some people do, and to develop an interest and excitement in the
students for working.
student interns: |
Student interns (high-school and/or college) are supervised by both the
business owner/supervisor and their teachers and are
required to work at the business for a specified period of time. Whether
the students get paid is up to the business' agreement with the schools.
When businesses involve student interns from area high schools
the students learn
on-the-job skills, the work ethic, experience success in working, establish
contacts in the world of work, create a track record of working, clarify
their career goals, and obtain
letters of reference for future employment. Programs for students
in the 9th and 10th grade are particularly meaningful as they support an
interest in staying in school.
job training and
Among interventions which Spergel and others (1994) felt were effective
at reducing gang activity was "Vocational training and job placement
for gang members" because it "supported their efforts to hold
et al., 1994, p. 14) They also found that "Pairing
gang members with local businessmen (some of whom belonged to gangs at one
time)" was an effective method of intervention. "These businessmen
provide support and guidance as well as a positive role model to the gang
member to channel energies into positive activities."
et al., 1994, p. 14)
a Kids at Work
Encourage employees to bring
their school-age children to the workplace for the last hour of the working day (after
school) perhaps two or three times a year. The purpose of the Kids at
Work Program is for all children to learn
more about work and the workplace, the work their parents do, and the link between
getting a good education and finding a good job.
a family-friendly workplace: |
A family-friendly workplace helps strengthen
families through flexible working hours, family leave time, at-work
celebrations of anniversaries and births, recognition of losses (i.e., a
death in the family, illness), and employee family social functions after
working hours. A family-friendly workplace nurtures the families of the
workers thus producing families which are less stressed. The result,
for those who have families and children, is, perhaps, a healthier
family. Healthy families may produce fewer delinquents and gang
out to good kids from
impoverished settings: |
Most low-income youths are at-risk of much that is troubling. The reason
for a business to be involved with children from impoverished settings is to provide them with hope and something
constructive to do as a means of insulating them against the negative
influences around them. Businesses can help good kids stay good and become
responsible adults. By offering these young people summer
employment and/or part time work during the school year businesses help give
them hope. They may even be grooming future employees.
|Working with agencies that help
high-risk youth: |
Some of the local youth-serving agencies in your community may be trying to help high-risk
youths change their lives. You can assist them by providing employment
opportunities for their clients. Hope Now For Youth provides opportunities
support for young men who want to break their ties with gangs, by
changing their lives and becoming productive, responsible, and
law-abiding parents and citizens. Scroll
to the bottom of their Web page to
see a list of the business which have
employed Hope Now at-risk youth.
employee involvement: |
Businesses could implement policies which encourage employees to get involved in community
service activities. Businesses could also build community service into the evaluation
process of an employee's work to emphasize the business' commitment to
the welfare of the community-at-large. Employees could volunteer, contribute needed
items, have a bake sale, or help youth-serving agencies in many other
local youth: |
Businesses could honor local youth by including them in their
advertising or inserting an announcement about select youth in their
monthly mail. They could celebrate
their successes (i.e., playing on a winning team, winning a scholarship,
reaching a certain goal) along with the success of their businesses.
I watched a television commercial for a bank while I was on the road conducting
my research. The
president of the local bank stood before the camera with a ninth-grader who had
just won a science award at school. With his arm draped over the
student's shoulder, the bank president proudly said "We're here to give you award-winning
service ... much like Billy (turning his head to look at Billy), who recently won his high school's science award
for his wonderful work in the biology lab, we work to give you our best."
The smile on Billy's face was unforgettable. Keeping
good kids good means recognizing their accomplishments and encouraging them
to continue on the path they have chosen. I thought this was a very
effective and public way to do that.
|Donating old computers and
paying the monthly service provider fee:|
When it comes time to replace computers at one's place of business, out of
date but working computers could be donated to a local youth-serving agency
and a commitment to paying the monthly provider fee could also be
made. Both may be tax deductible. The computers will become a resource for the agency
as it searches for and prepares grants, gathers and presents information
for staff and clients, and enhances communication between agencies
(through email). The youth it serves may also use the Internet for
instructional, job seeking, or other purposes.
race/ethnic relations in the community:|
As you read earlier,
discrimination is one of the root causes of the
formation of gangs. Local business organizations can improve race/ethnic
relations and make their communities better places to live. "When Michael Hampton became president of
the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids in 1997, he brought with him an
aversion to racism and a determination to unite with other leaders
who were addressing the issue. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
already had formed a cultural diversity committee and was organizing
an ongoing program called the Institutes for Healing Racism. So the
Grand Rapids club formed its own Healing Racism Committee and
supported the chamber's efforts."
no longer on
|Supporting local mentoring efforts:|
By clicking on Company Support you will be
able to see a list of the businesses that support
Be a Mentor, a program which facilitates the mentoring of both adults
and school children. By calling the local office of juvenile services or
the probation/parole office a person can find out which agencies are providing
|Serving on youth-serving agency
Unless a community is very small,
there is at least one youth-serving agency. In communities of 100,000 or
more residents, there are probably dozens of these agencies. They all need
the support of local businesses - particularly the help of
business people who have good ideas, work collaboratively, and bring to
the agency skills and knowledge that will advance the agency's efforts. Participation on an agency board takes only as much
time as one wishes to give and will likely return rewards in excess of
the efforts expended. A list of appropriate agencies may be found in the
local Yellow Pages under "Social Service and Welfare
Organizations," or the local office of juveniles services or
probation/parole office could be called.
Street Tech is a
nonprofit organization offering free computer training, certification, and
job placement for selected 18-40 year old students from disadvantaged
communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Street Tech students
participate in an intensive 6-month technical and life skills training
program, for 16 hours per week, after which they are transitioned into
entry-level computer jobs. You can see
the list of
business leaders who serve as Advisors and Fundraisers on the Street
| Sponsoring the development of a community-wide
Individuals, businesses, organizations, trust funds, and other entities
could contribute money to a local Youth Trust. A Youth Trust
dedicates only the interest earnings on its capital to promoting efforts to
improve the quality of life of local youth. This life-long trust fund could make a
significant contribution towards supporting existing agencies and help
seed new and needed ones.
| Sponsoring a community- or neighborhood-wide social or cultural activity
Businesses could sponsor an arts festival, parade, concert-in-the-park, bike race,
marathon, 5k, or any one of a hundred different events. Each event could
be sponsored by event-appropriate businesses (athletic equipment stores
for sports-related events,
modeling shows sponsored by area clothiers, an arts festival sponsored by
art suppliers and museums). This provides another healthy
activity for local youth and a means of advertising products and services.
Throw in a concession that designates a portion of its proceeds to local
youth-serving agencies and you have a real winner!
|Paying entrance fees for
In one community I visited a local business owner became the member
of a board which was overseer of a residential group home (the group home
was for high-risk boys and provided them with an education, daily
counseling, and a chance to change their lives). Out of his own pocket, the business owner bought
tickets to a local amusement park for all the youth in the group home
and the staff. The cost was insignificant when measured against the joy
the youths experienced in the park, the respite from stress it provided
the staff, and the satisfaction all of that brought the business owner.
And his contribution was tax deductible.
|Sponsoring a community agency:|
"The Korean Youth & Community Center (KYCC)
is a non-profit, community-based organization that has been serving the
Korean American Community since 1975. KYCC's programs and services are
specifically directed towards recently-immigrated,
economically-disadvantaged youth and their families who experience coping
and adjustment difficulties due to language and cultural barriers."
You can see which companies are among the
and Supporters of KYCC.
|Dedicating a portion of
the business's profits to help at-risk youth:|
Growing Prospects Inc. is a non-profit corporation that has set out to
provide individuals on income assistance with the job and life
skills necessary to help them find full-time employment in the
horticulture and greenhouse industries. That alone is a goal worth
striving for but Growing Prospects does even more to benefit the
community. As the business grows
and becomes self-sustaining all profits will be redirected to
support inner-city gang prevention and encourage youth employment."
See the bottom of the program's website for contact information.
A business can adopt
a youth-serving agency (i.e., a child abuse center, counseling
center, literacy center) and concentrate its efforts on just that
one agency. The business could include information about the
agency in customer mailings, inform
customers of youth violence issues and solutions to them, and even
encourage customers to support that agency.
|Providing scholarships to
college for deserving youth:|
A business could support ninth and tenth graders in the public schools who have
excelled academically and shown a propensity for community service
with scholarships to the college of their choice
(even a $500 scholarship comes in handy when it's time to buy
books). Keeping good kids good is as important, or more
important, than helping good kids who are behaving badly. Dangling a college scholarship in front of a ninth or tenth grader
motivates them to stay in school and continue performing well.
"In 2001, Richard D. King assumed the
presidency of Rotary International. One of the most pivotal moments
in Rick's life came when he was 11 years old. As he explains: 'Our
family did not have much money, and I didn't know how I was ever
going to get to college. I was taking free swimming lessons at the
YMCA when a member of the local Optimist Club came and was looking
for boys to enter the club's speech contest.
'The prize was a $1,000 college scholarship. I
jumped out of the pool and volunteered although I had never given a
speech in my life. The club member was a funeral director who made
me rehearse at his funeral parlor. He would sit on one side of the
room, and I would practice my speech on the other side — with the
caskets in-between us. And he would say to me that he wanted the
speech to be so good it would raise the dead!
'That man changed my life. I won third place at
their international convention, a $500 scholarship. It was the
beginning of many speech contests and an education in the value of
being able to communicate effectively. But far more importantly, he
taught me the value of a service club and unselfish giving, and how
one person can change forever the life of another human being.'"
The health care community,
particularly mental health professionals, also have a role to play in the
reduction of gang activity and youth violence. That's our next topic of
Resources: Here's something
for the arts community to do which may contribute to reducing
delinquency, gang activity, and youth violence.
Michael K. Carlie
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