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    Thursday
    Jan032013

    Hope Rises As Crime Drops In L.A. Again

    By Pete Carroll

    Crime continues to drop in Los Angeles, and while researchers continue to look for an agreed-upon reason, we can all acknowledge that a shift has occurred.

    A new hope exists in L.A.

    For the 10th straight year, overall crime decreased in Los Angeles in 2012, further cementing the fact that a transition has taken place. Old ways of life have departed; new ways have come. A change in thinking and a transformation in problem-solving methods have paved the way for such historic numbers.

    So many factors have contributed to this positive upswing. It is very encouraging to think that exactly a decade after we started A Better LA, a collaborative foundation aimed at suppressing the negative influences of inner-city gangs, crime continues to fall in Los Angeles. While it could be merely coincidental, we’d like to think that the past 10 years’ worth of efforts of all involved in the foundation have made a tremendously positive impact on the city.

    And perhaps the best thing about it all is that the stats point to an even more encouraging future for L.A. Homicides have dropped about 40 percent since 2003. From 2011 to 2012, gang-related crime dropped 10 percent and violent crime decreased 8 percent. While it wasn’t positive news across all categories of crime, the overall numbers have been resoundingly heartening.

    A Better LA was birthed in the fall of 2002. I was listening to the radio while driving to work from the South Bay to USC. Every morning during the week of the USC-Notre Dame game that year, news radio told of young people being killed in gang-related incidents from the previous night — in the very communities through which I drove each morning. By the end of the week, 11 people had been killed in gang-related incidents in South Los Angeles.

    It was that week when I decided I had to do something. I immediately called my late friend, longtime mentor and renowned civic leader Lou Tice at the Pacific Institute in Seattle. Within months, thoughts and discussions turned into the official start of A Better LA, a foundation that we’d like to think has played an instrumental role in saving lives, transforming communities and providing a new language of hope over the last 10 years.

    The key component of the whole mission has revolved around employing intervention workers in each community. Instead of pouring money into external efforts, we’ve built parks, reached out into schools and, most importantly, empowered members of the community to be intervention workers. The model is revolutionary because many of the intervention workers are reformed gang members — people who are the respected leaders of their communities who can then pilot drastic movements of positive change.

    It’s a proven model that has defied what many said was impossible, and it’s a model that has garnered great interest from other cities across the nation, including Seattle where A Better Seattle is already in its second year.

    A Better LA has had an impact because, like the football teams I’ve coached, people from all areas have set aside differences and joined together to do something special. Sheriff Lee Baca, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, former LAPD Chief William Bratton, expert intervention trainer Aquil Basheer, civic leaders, elected officials, corporations, intervention workers and many others deserve all the gratitude and appreciation in the world for their consistent support and faith in this movement.

    So regardless of who or what should get the credit for the continued decrease in crime in L.A. over the past 10 years, it’s clear that a sustainable shift has taken place. It’s been an honor to be a part of this extraordinary change.

    And even though the crime stats provide great encouragement, we still have a long ways to go toward making our communities completely peaceful and safe.

    But we have a hopeful outlook. We are heading in the right direction. And for that we can be so thankful, and so encouraged, as we continue to march onward.

    Tuesday
    Dec182012

    Free The Children’s We Day: Kids are the difference 

    Originally published by PETE CARROLL, The Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/free-the-childrens-we-day-kids-are-the-difference/article6401509/)

    One of the most rewarding aspects of coaching is putting belief in a young player, developing his talent and then watching him flourish. On or off the field, it’s tremendously special to witness the growth of a young person who maximizes an opportunity and accomplishes his dreams.

    Whether it’s in a football stadium or in the arena of life, seeing our young people reach greatness by achieving their full potential is remarkable. It’s been a passion of mine on the gridiron but also in the community, as we’ve made great strides in connecting with troubled young people in gang-riddled areas in Los Angeles, Seattle and other U.S. cities, offering them hope and empowering them to accomplish good with their lives.

    We were excited to bring the National Football League to Toronto on Sunday when our Seahawks faced the Buffalo Bills at the Rogers Centre. But there’s something I’m honoured to be a part of in bringing from Canada to the U.S. for the first time on March 27 in Seattle – Free The Children’s We Day.

    During my years coaching in Los Angeles and Seattle, I’ve seen our cities’ kids, many who come from difficult and disadvantaged backgrounds, join a different type of community than the one that We Day is and hopes to create – gangs.

    As we all know, gang life is an ill-fated decision for way too many young people. Kids are brimming with energy, but perhaps they lack the means, the guidance or the focus to turn it into something meaningful or productive. Gang involvement, perhaps the ultimate anti-social manifestation, typically involves prison, violence and death – and always ends in heartbreak.

    There are paths of avoidance, of course.

    I’ve had the pleasure of helping found such charities as A Better LA and A Better Seattle, both of which have done a tremendous job of helping youths evade these negative forces. But young people need something beyond a mere escape; we have to help them find something to strive for. As such, engaging and empowering youth in meaningful activities is crucial to their success – for individual growth and to foster productive members of our communities and of society.

    All young people deserve this right, including those who have been identified as the problem: bullies. These are young people who we now know are – in some cases, given the proper guidance – capable of thriving in positive leadership roles among their peers. In any case, instilling compassion, courage and a sense of community in all young people is essential.

    Back when Craig Kielburger started Free The Children, many adults questioned what difference a bunch of kids could make. But he and his organization have shown that young people aren’t problems. They’re problem solvers.

    At a recent event announcing We Day Seattle, youth leaders stood up, one after another, to explain how they planned to earn their way into the event. Some will collect for local food banks, some will fight bullying, and others will raise money to build schools overseas. There are dozens of causes, and it was exciting to witness students dedicate themselves to making a difference – as Craig did 17 years ago, and like millions of Canadian students have done over the past decade or so through Free The Children. My hope is that some students will join together in helping kids stay out of gang life.

    Like Toronto, Seattle’s corporate, political and community leaders – including the Seahawks – have joined together in resounding fashion to give their support to the inaugural We Day in our country, showing that the event will be a monumental moment for our city and its youth. It will unite the city and region and provide avenues for young people to achieve something great.

    Before every game and every practice, our players tap the “I’m in” sign above the door to the field, an affirmation of their commitment to the program and that they’ll hold nothing back.

    And that’s precisely the spirit I know the students in our community are embodying leading up to We Day Seattle. And beyond. It truly is “the movement of our time.”

    Like so many young Canadians before them, they will undoubtedly realize their full potential, make our city proud, and make the world a better place for everyone.

    Pete Carroll is head coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

    Thursday
    Dec132012

    We Day - Seattle

    On March 27, 2013 We Day Seattle will bring together 15,000 young people at Seattle's Key Arena to celebrate the power of youth to create positive change in their local and global communities.

    You can’t buy a ticket to We Day – you earn it through service. The We Act year long program supports youth groups and schools in taking tangible action to make a difference in the world. Groups take on one local and one global action and report back to Free The Children to earn their way to We Day. More than an event, We Day is the movement of our time – a movement of young people leading change.

    For more information about We Day - Seattle visiit www.WeDay.com/Seattle and to sign up for the We Act program click here.

    Tuesday
    Oct022012

    Pete Carroll meets his passionate, enthusiastic match

    FEDERAL WAY – Pete Carroll hasn’t met so much his match, as another person who seems to be a perfect match for the passion and energy that are among the trademark traits of the Seahawks’ coach.

    That would be Craig Kielburger, a 29-year-old Canadian bolt of infectious enthusiasm who is the driving force behind We Day and Free The Children. He and Carroll shared an assembly at Federal Way High School on Tuesday morning – along with Microsoft executive Brad Smith, U.S. freestyle skier Patrick Deneen of Cle Elum, former Congolese child solider Michael Chikwanine and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, among others – to announce the first We Day celebration to be held in the United States.

    The event will be held March 27, 2013, at Key Arena. It will feature former Soviet Union president and Noble Peace prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev, and be patterned after the hugely successful We Day events that have been held in Canada and involved 1.7 million students and attracted 2.4 million followers on Facebook.

    Actually, it was Carroll who set the stage for Kielburger to take the assembly by storm.

    “I’m so honored to be associated with this group, Free The Children, and Craig Keilburger and his brother, Mark, and all the wonderful people that support the organization,” Carroll told the assembled students and dignitaries. “Because of what they stand for, and who they are, and what they believe in.

    “And what they truly believe in, in my mind, is you. They believe in the power of kids making a difference. They understand how much you have to offer the world and they want to give you the opportunity to reach and do the marvelous things that you can do.”

    Carroll left everyone with this: “Dream huge, and see how far we can take this.”

    Why Seattle for the inaugural event in the United States?

    “Coach Carroll, absolutely,” Kielburger said after the standing-room-only assembly in the Eagles’ gymnasium. “A lot of cities have invited us. A lot of school boards have invited us. But it takes three magic things to really make this happen. It takes the school boards to say, ‘We want this.’ Coach got on the phone, called the school boards and said, ‘Come out to practice. Come on out for a great time, but let’s have a meaningful conversation.’

    “The second thing we need: Hometown heroes. Sports is a great way to get kids excited, get them passionate. You saw it today, with Richard sharing his story. From Compton (Calif.) to the Seahawks. From Compton to Stanford. How often does that happen? You need that second component. You need the heroes. You need local organizations.

    “And last, you need the amplification. We had FOX (KCPQ/channel 13), we had a lot of great news outlets here. In Canada, one in six Canadians watch We Day when it’s broadcast on television. This is not just a gathering that fills a stadium; it’s a gathering that rocks a country.” 

    Carroll is the chairman of We Day Seattle, while Microsoft is a co-sponsor along with Kielburger’s Free The Children international charity and educational program.

    “It is the first in the United States,” Smith said of We Day Seattle. “To have it in Western Washington is just great news for our whole region. Our involvement in part came from the new focus we’re bringing to youth. We’re really focusing our citizenship and our philanthropic work on youth.

    “And we were really impressed with what Free The Children had accomplished in Canada. But it was also the opportunity to help then do something new by coming to the United States. So it’s not too often you get to place a big bet on somebody who’s really shown that they can produce and do something completely new in your own backyard.”

    Just don’t try buying a ticket for We Day Seattle. You have to earn your admission with one local action and one global action.

    “It doesn’t matter the cause. It doesn’t matter the charity,” Kielburger said. “But you’ve got to make the difference. So for students, we will help you. We’ll help you find that local and global action. We’ll put you in touch with organizations. We’ll make sure that we give you mentor support. A prepackaged campaign. Curricular resources every week. What’s happening in the world, how teachers can teach about it. Summer leadership camps. International service trips. Everything you can imagine.”

    Kielburger calls it a “one-stop shop” to help make anyone who decides he or she wants to make a difference as “an active local and global citizen.”

    As he was running through the above list of services, Kielburger was rising up on his toes and gesturing wildly with his arms. And this was after he had made an even more impassioned presentation to the students during the assembly.

    The acorn from which this mighty oak of an idea grew came when Kielburger was a 12-year-old seventh-grader living north of Toronto. He saw an article in the newspaper about the life and death of a young child in Pakistan and asked his parents – both teachers – and teachers how he could make a difference.

    “Initially, so many people said, ‘No.’ We wanted to prove them wrong,” said Kielburger, who could have been mistaken for a student that wandered out of the senior section in his “Me (heart) We” T-shirt and jeans.

    “They said, ‘You’re too young. You can’t change things. You’ve got to wait. You’re naïve dreamers. Idealistics.’ We picked up those words and ran with pride. We said, ‘Yeah, we’re idealistic. We are shamelessly idealistic, in fact.”

    And what he’s doing now? “It’s making it easier for the next 12-year old,” he said, smiling. 

    “Never would we have imagined it would have started with my seventh-grade class to grow to where it is today.”

    Which was, sharing an assembly stage with Carroll and making football analogies.

    “I love it,” Keilburger said of the response of the students to his message and those of the other speakers. “The ‘We’re In,’ the ‘We Dey’ chanting. You know what it reminds me of? The Seahawks’ players. How they just have to tap the ‘I’m In’ (sign) before they run out there (to practice).

    “These students, they were on their feet, they were tapping it, they were ready to go. They’re ‘In’ for service, for volunteerism, for transforming the city and the state.”

    Tuesday
    Mar062012

    Pete Carroll Receives the 2012 Norm Maleng Advocate for Youth Award

    SEATTLE -The Center for Children and Youth Justice presented Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll with the 2012 Norm Maleng Advocate for Youth Award during a benefit breakfast on March 1, at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel. The award was presented to Coach Carroll for his visionary leadership in combating youth and gang violence in Seattle and Los Angeles through is visionary leadership and founding role of the A Better Seattle and A Better LA organizations.

    In partnership with the YMCA of Greater Seattle and the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, A Better Seattle promotes and funds efforts to deploy outreach workers to intervene directly with vulnerable young people.

    Named in honor of the late King County Prosecuting Attorney, the Norm Maleng Advocate for Youth Award honors those who show exemplary leadership, dedication and commitment to the youth and families of Washington State.

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