Teenagers make up a large part of D.C.’s rising homicide rate but Howard University Hospital is trying to steer them away from violence and onto a positive path in life.
The Howard University ENGAGE Saturday Academy program allows youth from across D.C. to join Howard University Hospital doctors, nurses and hospital staff to discuss violence-prevention.
More than a dozen teens graduated from the new anti-violence summer program run by the hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center on Wednesday evening.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s 100,” said 15-year-old Morgan Houston about his graduation from the program, which teaches young men vital skills such as decision making, conflict resolution, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.
“It’s interesting … it’s inspiring … and I actually learned a lot of things coming to these classes on Saturdays … I’m just glad I got the chance,” said Houston.
With more than 200 homicide deaths in the District so far this year, and many more injured by gun violence, the hospital’s trauma center is often called upon to help save the lives of those victims.
“It’s not just my obligation to stitch you up, but I fundamentally believe that a trauma center ought to build you up,” Dr. Mallory Williams, chief of the Trauma Center at Howard University Hospital, explained to the teens why the doctors and nurses conduct the anti-violence program.
“So where we sit in this community, as a level one trauma center, is really a nexus between surgery and public health. We’re actively in the community striving to be a part of it, striving to build it and striving to enhance it for all those who live in it,” he added.
Mentoring is a major part of the program and some of the mentors turned out for Wednesday night’s graduation.
“We’ve put (the participants) in front of men, Black men in particular, that are entrepreneurs and business people and physicians and scientists and leaders in finance, and gave them an alternative to look at what they can be when they grow up … mentoring is a huge part of what we do in our program … we believe that mentoring is critical to decreasing violence in the community,” said Dr. Roger Mitchell Jr., medical director of the university’s Center of Excellence for Trauma and Violence Prevention.
Dr. Mitchell said that the mentors who’ve helped guide the young men this summer have promised to stay in touch with them and Howard University Hospital hopes it’s anti-violence program grows in the years ahead.
“Every summer, we’re going to have this program and then we are going to stay in contact with the young people, help and support them throughout the year,” said Dr. Mitchell.
Besides the mentors brought in to work with the young people, the violence prevention program also included talks with doctors, nurses and hospital staff.
“My hopes for them is that they would take a small piece of every session or one session and that it sparks a light in them. Even if it’s decision making that, in the moment when they are in conflict, maybe they remember something from Dr. Williams’ lecture or, that when they are faced with financial challenges, they’ll remember from the financial literacy lecture, something that will help them. That is my hope for them,” said Kenyatta Hazelwood, RN, program director Center of Excellence for Trauma and Violence Prevention.