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Increase the Peace

KPBS Director of Community Engagement and Grants, Monica Medina (center) with staff and volunteers at the second annual "Increase the Peace Youth Summit", 1997.
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Above: KPBS Director of Community Engagement and Grants, Monica Medina (center) with staff and volunteers at the second annual "Increase the Peace Youth Summit", 1997.

After 15 years at KPBS, I can safely say I’ve been involved in more than my share of outreach initiatives, some greater than others. We’ve designed projects and campaigns that have focused on science and math education, health, diversity, domestic violence, substance abuse, aging, early childhood education, literacy, foster care and the economy. Along the way, I’ve worked with some wonderful, dedicated people and have learned quite a bit about each of the issues we’ve addressed. Yet there’s an initiative I will always remember with great fondness. In fact, I still get a thrill recalling it, as it is one of the very first efforts in which I was involved.

I had been at KPBS barely a month when I was given a directive to focus on teen violence. More specifically, to plan an event that could help young people learn ways to handle aggressive behavior. With no other instructions, and little knowledge of how to achieve this, it seemed to be a very tall order. I had a bare-bones budget and a lofty goal. Yet somehow this event happened in a very big and meaningful way. With a little pluck and plenty of perseverance, I discovered an abundance of support from other organizations and people with the expertise needed to help in creating something truly memorable: the Increase the Peace Youth Summit.

The one-day summit was created for and, to some extent, by teens. We ended up holding it for two years in a row, reaching more than 3,000 youth in all. And I can safely say, it really does take a village, or a community, or at least some very committed partners and youth. We were doing this at a time when email was still new and few in the workforce were using it. And forget social media. That didn’t exist. All communication was handled the old-fashioned way—by picking up the phone, writing letters and holding lots of meetings.

Increase the Peace Youth Summit teen host, Adrianna Barrera welcoming attendees to the first event in 1997.
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Above: Increase the Peace Youth Summit teen host, Adrianna Barrera welcoming attendees to the first event in 1997.

I met some fantastic youth who really believed in the summit. The first year, we found a very talented and bright youth to serve as our teen host. Adrianna Barrera had a broad smile and shining personality that held her peers’ attention.

The Increase the Peace Youth Summit proved to be an incredible experience, one which could not have been done without the many community partners: Fox 6; Senator Dede Alpert’s office; County of San Diego Department of Health, Office of Violence and Injury and Prevention; SAY, San Diego, Inc.; EYE Counseling & Crisis Services; Friday Night Live & Club Live; SDSU Associated Students and SDG&E.

Increase the Peace Youth Summit '97 event program
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Above: Increase the Peace Youth Summit '97 event program

Much of the little details have long evaporated from this old brain. But the feelings of the day, the “Hey, let’s put on a show,” attitude of the many who worked on it, and the passion and high spirits that filled the participants, made it one of the most amazing experiences for me and for all who were involved. We all felt it that day, and we knew we had created something truly special.

On the program we distributed, we wrote, “We challenge you to live the values we are promoting here at the summit: creativity, open-mindedness, enthusiasm, social responsibility, integrity, honesty, solutions and teamwork.”

These values summed up how we worked together then and how we continue to do our outreach work today. I am proud of my part in making the summit happen.

Monica Medina is KPBS' Director of Community Engagement and Grants

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