Thursday, May 9, 2013

Councilmember talks about violence prevention through education

A Note From Berkeley District 5 Councilmember Laurie Capitelli

Dear Neighbors,
For some months, we have been faced with a seemingly endless barrage of violent images from within our country: a string of senseless mass shootings and most recently the bombing at the Boston Marathon. As parents, as community members, and as Americans we are faced with many questions: what motivates the perpetrators, why do these events happen so frequently and why are we unable to strengthen our laws to prevent more violence in the future (exemplified by the inability for the US Senate to pass some kind of gun control legislation).

Late in April I had the honor of addressing a group of Berkeley citizens actively discussing these questions. Organized by the Congregation Netivot Shalom, the attendees represented many different faiths but shared a common commitment to their community and to positive action in the face of all these questions.

My remarks included a personal anecdote about an old, dear friend. He had been a Richmond police officer for many years and too many times had been a witness to the destructive aftermath of community violence. In response to my frustration over the lack of adequate gun control, he said if people didn’t have guns, they would use knives. If they didn’t have knives, they would use fists. Wherever people don’t have hope there will be violence.

So our challenge as caring community members is to do what we can locally to end the cycle of hopelessness. As we all know, hopelessness can begin in many different ways and at many different times in people’s lives. I believe that ending hopelessness for our kids means, in part, access to a quality education. That includes resources and encouragement from us so they can be ready to learn when they come to school. City officials don’t control the learning environments, but we are definitely key partners in creating a supportive atmosphere with clear expectations.

2020 Vision, a citywide movement to ensure academic success and well-being for all children and youth growing up in Berkeley, has institutionalized that partnership. As an original member of its 0 to 5 years subcommittee since 2008, I have worked very hard to research tangible strategies that will insure that young children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.

My work with Berkeley parents also brought me to the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) task force, a City/BUSD collaborative working group. For the past two years I have worked with parents, City and school district staff who are committed to creating an atmosphere where our kids are not only in the classroom but ready to learn once they are there.

As a passionate advocate for public education, I am a firm believer that the key to life-long opportunity is education. And if life-long opportunity is the antidote for hopelessness, we as a community must combat hopelessness by insuring educational support for our kids.

Laurie Capitelli
Berkeley City Council, District 5

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