Profile No. 55

Teens on Target -- Oakland, CA

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Initiative to change attitudes about guns and violence.

Program Goal:
To reduce violent injuries to and deaths of youth through peer education, peer intervention, leadership development, and peer counseling.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
At-risk urban youth in East Oakland junior and senior high schools.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
East Oakland, CA.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection.

Contact Information:
Deane Calhoun
3300 Elm Street
Oakland, CA 94609
Phone: 510­594­2588

Years of Operation:

The Teens on Target (TNT) teen advocacy initiative is operated by YouthAlive!, a nonprofit youth development agency whose mission is to reduce youth injuries and deaths through peer education, peer intervention, mentoring, and leadership development. The goal of TNT is to train urban youth who are at risk of violence, including gun violence, to become advocates for violence prevention. TNT began operating in Oakland, CA, in 1989 at a time when gun violence in the city was on the rise. Homicides continued to rise through the mid-1990's, reaching an all-time high of 154 murders in 1993. Juveniles were involved in gun violence through gang activity, through drug running, or as victims of gang-based or racial conflicts in the schools and on the streets.

In junior and senior high schools in East Oakland, TNT members, many themselves victims of violence, were enlisted and trained to become leaders and advocates of violence prevention. The teenagers developed a training curriculum to address issues of family violence, street and gang violence, guns, and drugs and alcohol; the causes and effects of this violence; and the advocacy skills necessary to stop it. The program provides positive roles for youth to portray in schools, at conferences, at public hearings, and in the media that show low-income urban youth as leaders and spokespersons in preventing violence. The program seeks to demonstrate that violence is not an inevitable part of urban youth's lives.

TNT leaders conduct weekly workshops on finding alternatives to violence with students suspended from school for carrying weapons or engaging in destructive behavior. TNT youth make about five presentations per week on violence prevention to students in high schools, junior high schools, and some of the feeder elementary schools, and also become involved as mentors and peer counselors to youth involved in conflict. It is estimated that TNT peer presenters reach more than 2,000 youth each year. In 1998, 30 TNT members were trained, bringing the current active membership to 185 youth. In the same year, these youth reached more than 3,000 people directly through their four-part workshop in schools (each series was presented to a classroom of about 30 students) and their presentations at public hearings, press conferences, and community workshops.

In the past 2 years, TNT members have become more proactively involved in mediating conflict situations between rival racial groups (Asian/Pacific Islanders and Latinos) on school campuses, in addition to responding to other conflict situations that occur on school grounds. An internal pretest and posttest survey among students who attended presentations determined there was an increase in knowledge about gun violence facts, including who gets victimized and the role of alcohol in violence.

In a peer visitation program in Alameda County, known as Caught in the Crossfire, TNT provides adolescents recovering from violent injuries in a county hospital trauma center with information on homicide statistics, recidivism rates, and personal experiences to try to dissuade them and their friends from retaliation. After patients are discharged, a buddy system is set up to help the injured youth develop and maintain positive alternatives to violence when they return to the community. Each year, TNT members visit an average of 50 injured youth and their families and friends.

In their advocacy role, TNT members become involved in making presentations and giving expert testimonials before city councils, school boards, members of county boards of supervisors, and the California State Legislature. They advocated for the Oakland City Council's passage of a municipal ordinance banning residential gun dealers in 1998 and for additional youth services.

The TNT initiative has a sister program in Los Angeles. Together, these community-based programs have won many awards for their work, including recognition by the U.S. Department of Justice, the California Peace Prize, and a Community Fellow Award from the California Wellness Foundation.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report