D.C.

Breaking the Silence on Youth Violence aims to put an end to violence

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Hundreds of people in the D.C. area are teaming up for safety's sake. The group spent Friday afternoon at at H.D. Woodson High School in Northeast D.C. talking about the most pressing issues plaguing communities and how best to rise above them.

The summit was called "Breaking the Silence on Youth Violence". Young people, ranging from elementary-age to 20-somethings, voiced their concerns about drugs, abuse and bullying. They wanted their peers to hear their pain, so they don't add to it.

Attendees took a pledge against violence, both physical and psychological.

Participant Jeffrey Gutierrez said, "I feel like a lot of people come here and are able to speak their mind and say things that maybe they haven't said to their family or parents."

The 2nd annual youth violence summit in Northeast D.C. exposed the suffering associated with nearly every youth crime.

"I often think of in all these issues, children don't really recognize the consequences. They just kind of see it on the news," said U.S. Attorney External Affairs Exec. Assistant Wendy Pohlhaus. "If I can just turn the dial a little bit the other way to think about these issues a different way then I consider this a success."

Making the event a success meant seeking solutions for building a safer and healthier community.

Deonte Smith, another summit participant, said, "I think just realizing who your real friends are. Your real friends are not going to put you in harm's way. Your real friends are going to tell you what's right and what's wrong."

"I can speak on that situation about staying strong and living through it. At some point, you'll find some stability," added participant Diamond Anderson.

Anderson, 20, spent the first 18 years of her life with her dad behind bars.

Now that he's out, they're turning his troubled past into a better future for others. They founded "Family and Friends of incarcerated People", which focuses on keeping children off the streets and out of trouble.

"What we try to do is make them part of something positive. We do skating every Sunday at Anacostia Park for free. We just did a retreat," Anderson explained.

Simple acts of kindness that can hopefully change a few lives.

Police officers, ex-offenders and professional athletes also joined in on the discussion to let youth know they have options for staying safe.

The youth summit is one in a series of community events sponsored but the U.S. Attorney's Office for D.C. There are also town hall meetings, crime prevention and various outreach programs held all year long for people of all ages.

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