Yesterday, the White House recognized twelve leaders from across the Nation as “Champions of Change” for their work to prevent youth violence in their communities as part of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.
One of the honorees was Fernanda Ocana, a young community activist from Salinas, California. Fernanda grew up in a community that had few positive role models for young Latinas. To counteract the lack of positive influences, she got involved in the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace and in Building Healthy Communities for East Salinas. Fernanda is now a sophomore in college and looks forward to continuing her work in the community once she graduates.
Another honoree was De Quan O’Neal, an advisory board member of Neighborhood Service Organization’s Youth Initiatives Project (YIP), a youth leadership and advocacy training program in Detroit, Michigan. De Quan got involved in community activism, working with 35 of his peers to kick off the 2012 “Hugs Not Bullets” Campaign to discourage gun violence, and working with other youth because he wants a better future for himself and his peers. He also believes that young people need adults to provide strong leadership and mentoring, so that youth are provided with a clear roadmap for success.
These “Champions of Change” were honored on the 44th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. As we reflect on his legacy, it is wonderful to see his vision of community service present in these young leaders, who continue to work toward violence prevention and improving the lives of youth all across the country.
To learn more about these courageous leaders, visit the Champions of Change website. You can also visit the ONDCP website for more information on ONDCP’s work on community-based prevention and breaking the cycle of drug abuse, crime, and recidivism through criminal justice reform.