When Cynthia’s autistic family member was eight years old, he was handcuffed in an elementary school classroom. This is when she first learned that he was at risk of youth violence.
Cynthia knew that her family member was not alone: that many children suffer from discrimination, displacement, and poverty—and that to address youth violence, we need to first help the youth heal from the trauma that they’ve experienced.
Cythnia explains: “The answers are in the community; we just have to listen.”
Cynthia’s empathy for those like her family member, and the grassroots violence prevention coalitions that she leads, have become pillars of youth violence prevention in her community.
She’s found success in credible messengers: people who look like, talk like, and have lived similar experiences as the impacted youth. Through basketball leagues and resume-writing workshops, young adults who might be rivals become teammates, and those who might be hungry can find employment. For many youths, humankindness is being given a chance to succeed.
“My job is to go out and listen: to build resources, to love, to respect—but most of all, appreciate the beauty that is already there.”—Cynthia Ricks-Maccotan