Monday, October 25, 2010

N.C. county picked for nation's first rural youth violence prevention center

The nation's first rurally focused youth violence prevention center will be located in Robeson County, N.C. "Researchers said the county's ethnic diversity, combined with its above-average rates of poverty and juvenile violence, made it an ideal candidate for the center, which will be funded through a $6.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Mike Hixenbaugh of The Fayetteville Observer reports. The N.C. Academic Center for Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention will be based in Lumberton and led by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Our goal, ultimately, is to promote the positive and successful development of middle school adolescents so that they can go on to have bright futures," Paul Smokowski, a professor of social work at UNC-Chapel Hill who will lead the center, told Hixenbaugh. Similar centers in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia were established under the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control following the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Robeson County is "regarded as one of the nation's most ethnically diverse rural communities, with more than 68 percent of its 129,000 residents being American Indian, black or Hispanic," Hixenbaugh writes. The N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports the county's youth death rate of 124 per 100,000 was more than twice the state average between 2004 and 2008. "This project will enable us to develop a deeper understanding of youth violence," Mark Legerton, a partner in the federal project, told Hixenbaugh. "And it will allow us to implement interventions that can be assessed so that we can develop successful ways to prevent and reduce youth violence." (Read more)

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