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Confronting Youth Violence One Step at a Time

December 8, 2008

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Department of Health official talks with Albany teens.

The Journey Program improves self-esteem and provides positive role models for Albany teens through team mentoring. Mentors include community members and students from UAlbany and other area colleges (Photo Kristi McClamroch)

With the rising threat of gangs and youth violence in Albany, some teens don't know where to turn. UAlbany's Kristi McClamroch and her colleagues are stepping in, hoping to provide an alternative to the city's streets.

The Journey Program provides middle and high school teens a safe forum with positive role models and a place to participate in constructive activities benefiting themselves and their community. The program -- which currently has 60 participants -- aims to improve self-esteem, build skills and provide positive role models for Albany teens through team mentoring. Mentors include community members and students from UAlbany and other area colleges.

The program, a collaborative effort between UAlbany's School of Public Health, City of Albany Gang Prevention Program, the Albany YMCA, and the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Sexually Transmitted Disease Control, focuses on building bridges for gaps in health, education and opportunity for youth ages 13-18.

"Our program focuses on a holistic approach to address negative health behaviors such as unprotected sex and gang involvement," said McClamroch, director of The Journey Program and assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. "We are using an alternative strategy of team mentoring, which we hope will lead to improved decision making and healthier outcomes for teens in our community."

Albany teens

The Journey Program provides middle and high school teens a safe forum with positive role models and a place to participate in constructive activities benefiting themselves and their community (Photo Kristi McClamroch).

The program's name is derived from the familiar Chinese proverb saying, "The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step." McClamroch and her colleagues believe they are providing that step.

"The program is a good opportunity to express yourself in a positive way and to do something fun instead of being on the streets," said 16-year-old Felicity Holman, an Albany High School student.

It is one of two youth development programs for at-risk inner-city teens as part of the collaboration. The other is Saturday Teen Night, which provides more informal mentoring and a safe environment for over 1,000 Albany teens to spend their Saturday nights each year. 

The long-term goal is to enroll participants in the programs at the start of their teenage years and guide them through high school graduation by instilling a sense of pride and responsibility to themselves and their community.

For more information about these programs, contact Kristi McClamroch at (518) 402-0397.

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Ben Spear '10
UAlbany Students

"The Honors College has been a great experience because of the ability to get together with a small group of people with a common goal of success."

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