In Crown Heights, Helping Youth Cope

Kenton Kirby (right), head of Make It Happen, smiles with colleague David Grant (left) and a youth in the program. (Photo courtesy of Make It Happen via Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)

Kenton Kirby (right), head of Make It Happen, with colleague David Grant (left) and a youth in the program. (Photo courtesy of Make It Happen via Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)

Young people who’ve been victims of crime and violence in the city often have no way to cope with the trauma they’ve experienced. Now a group called “Make It Happen,” a program funded by the Office of Victims of Crime within the Crown Heights Mediation Center, is connecting with young men ages 16 to 24 who’ve encountered violence in their communities.

In Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, Samuel Lieberman writes about the work done by Make It Happen’s 34-year-old director, Kenton Kirby.

Kirby knows what music his kids listen to and he knows what teams they support. He takes them to games and rags on them, joking around like a wise and goofy adult friend. He sees six guys individually and stays connected to his former clients on an as-needed basis.

“My guys don’t really have a space to process complex emotions,” Kirby said. “When someone acts out, a lot of times, there is some unrecognized trauma.”

In a meeting with neighborhood youth, Kirby explores what it means to “man up” in response to violence.

Kirby explained that people are acting out because they are scared and have a mess of emotions they have not dealt with properly.

He described a moment after a shooting when those involved would talk about revenge and “manning up.”

“No, let’s talk about why you feel you haven’t shed a tear for you sister or brother,” Kirby said.

Read more about Kirby, who describes himself as “a social work cheerleader,” and the efforts to help youth in Crown Heights, in the original article.

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