In a recent statement the members of the South Coast Youth Safety Partnership (SCYSP) wrote, “We are devastated by the recent tragic loss of youth in our community from violence. We represent an ongoing collaborative effort across youth-serving sectors to reduce youth and gang violence and build safe and healthy neighborhoods for everyone, especially our vulnerable youth populations. As service providers, public safety officers, educators, elected officials, and community members, we have been committed to working together and doing whatever it takes to build a safe community and support a bright future for our youth. In continued partnership with communities in the Central Coast region, we commit to creating a unified response that allows community voices to be heard and acknowledged.”
Dr. Jill Sharkey, Associate Dean at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara, co-chairs the Partnership’s Strategy Team and helps guide its Policy and Community Engagement Teams. The Partnership recently completed strategic planning efforts. In the preface to the strategic plan, Dr. Sharkey wrote, “I have been invested in the SCYSP since its inception because of the transformative power of community collaboration to meet the needs of all youth in our community. SCYSP partners recognize that our most vulnerable youth need the whole community to work together to address unmet needs such as safe and engaging community programming, work readiness and employment, mental health services, overcoming stigma, identity and leadership development, healthy recreation, and post-secondary education attainment.”
The South Coast Youth Safety Partnership’s work to ensure the safety of youth started over a decade ago as a call to action following a tragic incident involving youth in 2007 and has been ongoing throughout the years, even in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The SCYSP is grounded in a foundation of shared responsibility and shared accountability, both contributing to building strong relationships and trust. The group recognizes that no one person, agency, organization, or group alone can be responsible for reducing youth and gang violence and building a healthy and safe community for our youth and their families. It acts from the belief that youth and gang violence is a community issue, requiring a community response.
The Partnership brings together law enforcement professionals who have committed to being strong partners in this community-led effort, along with local and county government, schools, stakeholders, and community members. It continues to promote the use of restorative approaches in schools, social justice in the community, and alternatives to incarceration through diversion programs and other community-focused solutions.
The recent statement continued: “Collectively, we work to address the needs of our youth and build on their strengths. As a community, we can ensure our youth are more resilient and strongly connected to their families, schools, and community, as they develop into our next generation of leaders.
“As a partnership our immediate response was to lead communications efforts between all of our stakeholders, to ensure that the immediate needs of the community were addressed by crisis response professionals. The Community Engagement Team members were encouraged to reach out to the youth and families they serve. We will be continuing to assess the needs and necessary responses of the community as we gather more information. Any member of the community can feel free to contact the Partnership for resources, referrals, or questions.”