We’ve seen the devastating effects of youth violence across the country and no community is spared, begging the question, “What can we do about it?” That will be the topic of discussion when Henrico County and Henrico County Public Schools, along with public health and law enforcement officials host two special town hall meetings, “Together We’ll Heal: A Community Conversation for Peace.”
The community is invited to be part of a dialogue centered on hope, healing and a call to action for the future. The first event will be held from 6-7:30 p.m., Monday, June 6 at Henrico High School, 302 Azalea Ave., Henrico, Virginia. (Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with resource tables available for families.) The second event will be virtual, from 5:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, June 8, via Microsoft Teams: www.tinyurl.com/bridgebuildersacademy.
“While these meetings have been planned for some time, their urgency is heightened by recent unspeakable, national events,” said Amy Cashwell, HCPS superintendent. “We all feel a call to do something but may not know where to start. I’m hopeful that by engaging in this constructive conversation on youth violence, students, families and community members will come away empowered with tangible resources and action steps to promote a more peaceful Henrico County.”
Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas will deliver opening remarks, followed by a moderated panel discussion featuring Henrico Police Chief Eric English, a representative from the Virginia Department of Health, a community youth program, several HCPS Family and Community Engagement staff members, and a student.
“Youth violence is robbing our young people of their potential and their futures, and it’s damaging the fabric of families and communities,” Vithoulkas said. “The pressures and influences on today’s youth are unlike they were years ago. It’s essential that we tackle this problem together, drawing on the experiences and expertise of everyone. These special town halls are designed to get us to listen and start a dialogue that will lead to meaningful action. We must solve this problem. Our kids deserve nothing less.”
“The Henrico Police Division is committed to fostering a safe, healthy community for all of our residents, but we cannot do this alone,” English said. “We need to strengthen the partnerships we’ve built among police, mental health and other government agencies, our school system, community organizations and civic leaders. Whether or not we realize it, youth violence affects us all. We must work together, as one community, to address the root causes and help our youth build each other up, not tear each other down.”
Following the panel discussion, there will be a question-and-answer session for the public. Attendees will also be able to write out questions and submit them to be read by the moderator. Pre-registration is not required.
Student and community safety are long-standing priorities for HCPS and Henrico County leaders. Vithoulkas, English and Cashwell are co-chairs of a task force to address issues of youth violence in Henrico. The committee brings together representatives from the school division, police, mental health and developmental services, the commonwealth’s attorney’s office and juvenile court services to examine rising statistics in youth-related crime, existing interventions and solutions to help prevent crime and protect the young people of Henrico.