WGN Ed Committee hosts panel on at-risk youth

by Katie Crumpler

The Education Committee of the Women’s Giving Network of Wake County hosted a special luncheon panel for its members on Oct. 7 at Haven House Services, a 2014 Network grantee. The panel was entitled: “Youth at Risk: 21st Century Threats with Solutions – a Provocative and Informative Hour with the Experts.”

Panelists included:

Patricia Cardoso, Director of Diversion Programs, Haven House Services

Beth Nelson, Consultant and Juvenile Crime Prevention Council Chair

Lieutenant Ken Huff, Law Enforcement, Youth and Family Services

Donald Pinchback, Chief Court Counselor for District 10 (Wake County)

Panelists were asked about the threats that impact youth today. All agreed that with the addition of technology and social media, bullying and peer pressure have entirely new avenues. Instead of being able to go home at the end of the day and be protected from bullies, youth are now exposed to it nonstop.  

Another major threat is the absence of, or lack of access to, opportunities and supports. A solution all agreed to was access to quality, low-cost afterschool activities for all youth.

The reason youth get involved with gangs is that they are often seeking to satisfy a sense of belonging. Gangs accomplish that, but in negative ways. If we can find ways to positively achieve a sense of belonging through mentors, fun and engaging activities and academic help, more and more youth could be deterred from gangs, hate groups, juvenile crime and bullying.

Karen Zelden, WGN member and panel facilitator, asked the panelists about signs that parents and other adults can look for when concern over a youth’s decisions exists. Patricia Cardoso noted that it often boils down to two factors: Any dramatic or sudden changes – whether in behavior, appearance, schedule, etc; and peers – look at who your child is hanging out with and what kind of influence they have over your child.  Beth Nelson emphasized these are not “bad kids,” but kids without the proper supports in place.