When I reflect on all the recent events that have transpired in our communities, our schools, and our world, I think about the environments and the culture in which we live, learn, work and play. I believe that we should, strategically, think about all the places where we can become more effective in changing cultures: in homes, schools and community-based organizations. We need to institute cultures where we can foster and measure connectedness, where we build caring attitudes, positive behaviors, mutual respect, acceptance and empathy for others into the standards of how we operate.

More specifically, in the area I’m most passionate about, how can we nurture the mind, body and soul of our young people? Within our communities, we must look at collective approaches that establish a culture model which takes into account all major stakeholders. Here are some ideas to get us started:

Pictured above: Tina Brown, executive director of the Overtown Youth Center.

In youth organizations and nonprofits
We can establish a consistent training curriculum that is packaged, taught and adopted by organizations across Miami-Dade, including ways to implement an ethos of success, cultural competency and compassionate intervention/trauma-informed care.

For example, here are some basic belief systems that we can encourage and train all program facilitators to share:

  • ALL kids in our program will succeed because we care and they have the capability.
  • Treat every child like they are own.
  • Every staff member needs a daily opportunity to tap into the emotions of our youth.
Pictured above: Lisa Madonna (L) joins Angelina Lazo (R), an 18-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and other parents and students at a demonstration calling for more gun control at an intersection near the school, in Coral Springs, Florida, on February 18 (Associated Press).

In schools

We can reframe schools to think about students as customers, where teachers and administrators are there to serve and leadership values their feedback, allowing students to inform the education experience.

 Here are some questions to help school leaders assess if they have created a culture of care, concern and customer service:

  • What does it feel like to walk in school? Are students being greeted by people who care? How do students feel when they leave the building?
  • Does class start with the teacher showing kindness or just showing the objective of the day’s lesson? Is a culture of thoughtfulness exhibited throughout the building, on the field, in each classroom, in the cafeteria and on buses?
  • How does it feel to walk into the principal’s office or a counselor’s office? Are students comfortable? Does it feel punitive rather than supportive and understanding?

I strongly believe that gun violence is a symptom of a missed opportunity – an opportunity to change the way someone was treated or not treated, misdiagnosed or undiagnosed,  cared for or not cared for, educated or uneducated, looked at but perhaps overlooked.

No matter the situation, the environments and cultures in which we operate can work to combat acts of violence. Let’s strive to foster a culture of care; a culture that promotes kindness, connectedness and mindfulness; a culture of acceptance that embraces differences and diversity; a culture of consistency and equity; a culture of pause and patience; and, most importantly, a culture of support.

Today, I challenge every home, every nonprofit, every school and every business to evaluate its culture of care.

Tina Brown is the executive director of Overtown Youth Center.

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