Community Members Learn About Gang Prevention and Awareness

Sep 25, 2017

Santa Rosa City Councilmember Tom Schwedhelm welcoming community members to the ninth annual Gang Prevention Seminar at Finley Park Community Center, Sept. 19 2017
Credit KRCB/Milagros Gomez

As part of the ninth annual Gang Prevention Awareness Week, the City of Santa Rosa’s Violence Prevention Partnership presented the 2017 Gang Prevention Seminar on Tuesday September 19 at Finley Park Community Center.

Community members participated in workshops given by the Santa Rosa Police Department, California Youth Outreach and the Sonoma County Behavioral Health.  Keynote speaker Kimberly Papillon addressed the topic of “The Science Behind Resiliency."

The 2017 Gang Prevention Seminar was one of seven connected events that included two family festivals at local parks, parent awareness training, a boxing exhibition that showcased youth development, a car show highlighting cultural diversity in our community, and a night walk where children and parents could feel safe and connected to their neighborhoods. 

Partnership manager for the City of Santa Rosa, Jason Carter, said the seminar serves as a resource  for the 200 direct service staff members in attendance to get a better understanding of individuals living in high need areas of the community.

“As a city, we understand that addressing the root causes of youth and gang violence requires a collaborative effort with multiple sectors, with a shared vision and unified strategies,” Carter said. “The Gang Prevention Seminar is an opportunity for the Santa Rosa Violence Prevention Partnership to collaborate with a larger audience..." apart from those involved in daily work together.

Salvador Sanchez Strawbridge, Community Outreach Specialist at the City of Santa Rosa’s Violence Prevention Partnership, said he believes that the seminar helps to eliminate unconscious bias, allowing for a more humane way to understand individuals who have dealt with trauma in their life.

Strawbridge explained how, at last year’s seminar, he provided a first hand perspective on gang warfare and how he has grown into the person he is today.

“It’s about resilience; the first thing is starting with ourselves,” Strawbridge said. “Last year I spoke, because I’m a gang member who changed my life around. Now I work at city hall running the gang programs serving as a bridge between the city and other programs that we fund to work with this population and all young people.”

Strawbridge said he believes in redemption, an act that he lives by each day through giving back to the community. He finds it rewarding to be able to spend his personal time helping youth because it gives him the opportunity to connect with professionals and find the correct resources for the young people he works with.

Helen Simi, who works at the Sonoma County Human Services Department Planning, Research, Evaluation & Engagement team (PREE), was a returning attendee to the Gang Prevention Seminar.

Based on learning from last year’s seminar, Simi explained how the concept of having an open mind is essential in order to be able to understand a person’s life story without judgment. 

“One of the important things that we learned about gangs is really humanizing the people who are involved in these situations and really understanding their stories,” Simi said. “If not, we’ll just make generalizations about who they are and why they’re doing what they’re doing.”

Gang Prevention Awareness Week ran from September 15 through 23. For more information on the events visit the event's Facebook page.