Aurora focusing on youth mentoring to curb violence
A month after calling for a renewed focus on mentoring Aurora's young people, Mayor Richard Irvin says his administration has heard from many program leaders in the community as it formalizes a citywide mentoring intitative.
"We know the power of effective mentoring and leadership programs," Irvin said during a Tuesday media briefing. "These programs -- coupled with all of our recreational, athletic and art programs -- can be the game changers in the lives of our young people."
Irvin first announced plans for the citywide mentoring effort last month after the shooting deaths of 15-year-old Jasmine Noble and 20-year-old Juanya Booker. Jasmine was killed Nov. 24 on Aurora's near west side. Booker, of Montgomery, was killed and four others wounded in a shooting Dec. 1 on Aurora's near east side.
"We had a trying month of deaths of young people in Aurora and surrounding communities," Irvin said Tuesday.
He said new concerns already have surfaced this year after the shooting death of a 19-year-old man Sunday near Aurora and the arrest of a 19-year-old Aurora man on weapons charges on Saturday.
Irvin has said he believes future shootings could be prevented by providing young people with better tools for decision making. So his administration wants to support mentoring programs in Aurora.
"The goal isn't to create a new wheel," said Irvin, adding there's already a number of programs "helping our youth to move forward in life."
So far, Irvin's office has compiled a list of 26 mentoring programs. Once the list is finalized this month, cards with information about the programs will be provided to anyone who requests them.
Community leaders also have started meeting with young people to hear from them about the issues that affect their lives.
"Some of their insights were very powerful and candid," Irvin said.
Another conversation with high school students is planned for next week at West Aurora High School.
Police Chief Kristen Ziman said students were the ones who suggested that meeting.
"It was the kids that said, 'How come nobody ever asks us what we think? You guys are always telling us what you're going to do. Why don't you ask us?'" Ziman said.
As a result, Ziman said the meeting will be more of a listening session.
"So we're going to talk less and we're going to listen more about what some of their ideas are," she said.
At the end of the month, Irvin plans to host a luncheon where leaders of mentoring programs will be brought together "to discuss ways to collaborate and benchmark best practices."
"This will be first of many opportunities for this particular group of leaders to work together well beyond January and into the year," he said.