Youth in Santa Maria plan to discuss issue of violence at town h - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Youth in Santa Maria plan to discuss issue of violence at town hall meeting Thursday

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On Thursday night, students in Santa Maria will lead a Youth Town Hall. It's an event organized by local non-profits in the community in response to the Mayor's Task Force on Youth Safety.  Students say all youth are invited to address the recent violence that has gone on in the city and discuss how to end it. 

Organizers say they are expecting 200 students to show up at the Veterans' Memorial Building. Some students say they're concerned about their safety at school and around the city.  

Abraham Melendrez, of C.A.U.S.E., is a mentor for students in the area and says with seven shootings in Santa Maria in the past six weeks, young people in the community are concerned. 

"There are some 18, 19-year-olds definitely being personally affected by the violence that's going on," Melendrez said. "A lot of them feel the sadness when there is a shooting."

Jacqueline Mendoza, a junior at Santa Maria High School, says she will be in attendance at the event. 

"What we want to talk about is how to reduce youth violence," Mendoza said. "It's very important. Mostly in our community, we see a lot of the violence expanding. We want to create programs to help stop it."

Students plan on talking about transportation, education and security among other topics.  

"I would like to have more security guards and people watching us at school," said Saul Martinez, Santa Maria High School student. 

"I want to talk about leadership opportunities for internships so students can get involved and look more competitive," Mendoza said. 

Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino will be the only adult to speak during the town hall. 

"Heck ya, I'm going to be there and I want to hear what they have to say," Lavagnino said. "I don't think anyone has a monopoly on good ideas, especially not adults."

Lavagnino says there's no better way to talk to teenagers than through other teenagers.

"How do we get that kid that's disenfranchised that really doesn't feel like there is anything better in life than to join a gang?" he said. "How do we talk to that kid in a way that they will understand?"

Other topics students plan on discussing are soccer fields, public hangout spaces and getting resources for their parents, as well.
Organizers also hope this event will spark a mentorship program between kids and young adults.

"We want them to come out so we get their opinions, so their voices are heard," Mendoza added.
Adults, parents and teachers are invited to observe, but this event is geared toward youth 12-22 years old. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12 at the Veterans Memorial Building located at 313 W. Tunnell Street in Santa Maria. After the discussions, there will be activities including a live DJ, raffles and food.

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