Jul 19 2021
Violence is on the rise in New York State and the ages of victims and accused are younger and younger. It now also affects girls, which statistically is not the norm for violent crimes. A new program targets at-risk adolescents to encourage and support them in order to reverse this trend.
Roshad Rush works at PEACE, Inc. and provides support to families. She reads a poem that the girls read every time they meet: “I endured. I was broken. I have known hardships. I lost myself. But, here I am, getting stronger and stronger each day. I will never forget the hard lessons of my life.
Andrea Bernard manages Youth Services at PEACE, Inc.
“It’s heartbreaking. Not only the child who was injured or died, but also for this family the child who committed the crime. Our babies commit crimes on other babies, ”says Bernard.
Bernard, Roshad Rush, and Mary Beth Welch don’t wear badges or guns at PEACE, Inc., but they too are fighting the rise in youth violence. Specifically, they say their calling now is to work with 13 and 14 year old girls.
“It’s a far decision, you know. It could be a boy they like. They can make decisions that are not good for them just because they want to feel that love. Whether it’s good or bad love, they just want to fill that need, ”says Rush.
PEACE, Inc. director Mary Beth Welch says girls in this age group are being overlooked and that she wants this program to grow in New York State.
“As we continued to talk to people, it was in a series of conversations that we realized that young girls were the only population that was being overlooked,” says Welch.
“We always end with, ‘Who wants ice cream? “They all say:” Yes! Rush said.
Girl’s Circle is a safe and confidential place for young girls to chat with a program focused on social and emotional development. They offer food and fun activities that relate to the program. Rush leads the group. She is open to her own struggles with adolescents.
“I repeat with the girls that you are not your situation. You are more than that. You have a goal. You have dreams that you must fulfill as a young woman. I am able to feel and understand what some of these girls are going through because I have been through it myself. You don’t know what you are going to hear, so I prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And I understand that the most crucial time for girls is middle school and high school, ”says Rush.
Girl’s Circle was launched in early 2021 and they are already seeing some progress from the young girls participating.
“Just by talking to the girls, I can see a difference. These young women are suffering and what an opportunity to have a Girl’s Circle where they can share what they are going through and know that it is a safe place; know that we are there to help and support them, ”says Bernard.
“They never have to be alone on a trip that they may have now or in the future,” Welch explains.
“You don’t have to put yourself in certain circumstances, because if it’s real love, no one will want anything from you,” Rush adds.
PEACE, Inc. offers many support services for the whole family.
To learn more about Girl’s Circle or any of its other programs, you can connect with them through the PEACE, Inc. website